Bar Dog Connects Digital, Physical at Kroger

Wine brand is creating consumer experiences at retail that connect the digital and physical worlds, including running demos and etching dog gear in Kroger parking lots.
Jacqueline Barba
Digital Editor
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Vintage Wine Estates’ (VWE) Bar Dog, a brand with a range of California wines the company says were created for humans who love dogs, recently partnered with Kroger to draw attention and drive purchases in stores.

VWE chief growth and experience officer Jessica Kogan told the Path to Purchase Institute that one area the company's brands are really focusing on is activations that connect physical and digital channels at grocery.

“However we approach the digital shelf, we approach the physical shelf with the same discipline,” Kogan said regarding what VWE call its “e-grocery strategy.”

Bar Dog is one VWE brand exercising these types of activations. Kogan said Bar Dog has a very significant digital shelf program with all its retail partners that tend to be more digitally savvy, such as Target and Kroger.

“We work with [these retailers] to optimize our brands, specifically Bar Dog, on their websites as we are supporting the product sell-through in the physical store,” Kogan said.

Those physical efforts include product demos, which Kogan said are “absolutely critical to the existence of brands today,” especially as many consumers now will often check out a brand’s digital presence, if they’re interested enough, while in stores. 

Bar Dog has recently practiced this with Kroger by running interactive activations at a slew of its major “cluster stores,” including in Ohio, Virginia and South Carolina. The efforts include the brand’s Bark Mobile, similar to Oscar Mayer’s Wienermobile, traveling to participating Kroger stores and parking in the lots as well as in-store product demos/sampling events at select locations.

Kogan said the goal was to invite shoppers to stop by the branded, dog-themed Bark Mobile trailer while heading in or out of the store to get free custom etchings on their own dog gear, like dog collars or dog bowls, or a wine bottle after they’ve purchased it, while also discovering some of Bar Dog’s wines.

The trailer, and other branded marketing materials spotted at Kroger, utilize and depict QR codes that link to a landing page within that requests users’ information to receive exclusive information and offers.

The Bark Mobile trailer is still making stops at Kroger stores this month, in addition to other retailers, including select Meijer and Total Wine stores as well as at local animal shelter partners, according to Bar Dog’s events calendar on its website.

Additionally, Bar Dog also cross-merchandised products inside Kroger stores across the country (not just the select stores the Bark Mobile visited). The brand merchandised its wine not only in the wine aisle, but also in the pet aisle for eight weeks (ending early May), a strategy Kogan said “outperformed expectations.”

“There’s a beautiful alignment between customers who love to drink wine and also have pets,” Kogan said.

In terms of digital support with Kroger, Bar Dog also leveraged keyword optimization on through limited windows, among other efforts to boost the brand during an activation. The brand also leverages a calendar format to let people know where the Bark Mobile is traveling next, including via Facebook or Google, so shoppers know when and where they can catch the experience.  

“Sometimes in our industry and in our marketing, we forget that customers, regardless of age, really want to connect,” Kogan said, and where they want to connect varies. “Sometimes it’s at a festival, or a special event outdoors, or sometimes it’s simply at their grocery store where they want a heightened shopping experience.”