“When it comes to the brand, we’re all in or nothing. Brendan is like that with everything he does,” says Laura Carter of her husband and business partner Brendan.
As every industry made their ‘pivot’ to take their business online during the COVID-19 lockdown, Brendan, Laura and the Unico Zelo team knew they had to make a commitment that truly meant something to their audience, industry and wider community. They wanted to do something for the people and landed at a daily live streaming show from their home base in the Adelaide Hills.
What they didn’t know when they made the commitment to a daily 5.00pm show, was just how long the lockdown would go for.
“When we started the daily shows, we had no idea how long it would go for,” Laura admits, “I think we ended up at around 65 shows in a row, in the end.”
While anyone would forgive them for taking a break at any point, Laura and the team felt an obligation to the community they were broadcasting to, to keep the stream active as a constancy during such an inconsistent time. Therefore, they streamed through Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and Twitch every single night of the South Australian lockdown period – including weekends.
“Lockdown meant that everyone was stuck at home and couldn’t do their normal rituals, such as going to the pub for a knock off,” explains Laura. “Instead, we wanted to provide a virtual happy hour as something reliable, where people knew that they could tune in at the same time every day and give a sense of routine back.”
This routine also helped the staff, who like everyone else, were seeking a sense of normality and purpose. Producing a daily livestream including organising a roster of daily guests, planning segments and coming up with new and engaging ideas was just the distraction that was needed. The audience appreciated it. In fact, at one point they streamed through Tourism Australia’s Facebook page, engaging 8 million people globally.
This is a monumental effort for any content creator, let alone when content isn’t your primary product. As time progressed, the team learnt new skills and improved their craft, adding new segments (junk food and wine pairings were a favourite) along with considerations such as subtitles and lighting to build professionalism and ensure the daily show was up to their high standards. After all, Laura admits that branding and how a product looks is such an important consideration for the Unico Zelo customer. Like their wine, the livestream had to look the part too.
Laura points out that the show was never intended as a Unico Zelo promotional hour. Very rarely did they drink or talk about their own products during the show. Instead, the focus was on the people they invited including winemakers, hospitality figures and friends of the brand, giving them a platform to have their say, share experience and bring a bottle to try stump Brendan in blind tastings on-air.
Their pivot toward innovation had two main achievements. One in fostering community and the other in education, which are themes that will carry through the Unico Zelo brand. The show truly was ‘Wine for the People’ and the legacy of the 65 daily livestreams that entertained, informed and educated us on all things wine will be remembered fondly for years to come.
If that’s not a sign of award-winning innovation, then I don’t know what is.
Story written by 2020 Wine Media Cadet, Lachlan Aird