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Stephanie Gallo ’99 didn’t know if she wanted to join the family business, but she was certain she wanted to pursue a career in marketing. While attending Kellogg, she had the opportunity to sit in on several company presentations, which quickly led to her realize that not only was her family’s business very entrepreneurial, but she probably wouldn’t find a more enjoyable industry.
“We say that we democratize wine for consumers in the United States and throughout the world, and I wanted to be a part of that,” says Gallo. That, specifically, is E. & J. Gallo Winery. Founded by Gallo’s grandfather Ernest and his brother Julio in 1933, E. & J. Gallo is now the largest exporter of California wines in the world. Since Gallo left Kellogg in 1999 and began climbing the rungs of the marketing department, she has gone beyond witnessing and driving the “democratization of wine” to participating in two of the most transformative decades in the history of marketing.
“The way we drive awareness for our brands has evolved tremendously. We’re now marketing and selling in a digital world,” she explains. “As a family business we’ve always believed that you have to adapt and evolve to stay relevant. So once consumers were going digital to obtain information on brands it became just another channel where we could communicate our brands’ stories and provide the information they needed at their fingertips.”
This doesn’t mean that E. & J. Gallo markets exclusively through digital channels. In fact, the company works harder than ever to bring its brands directly to consumers.
“When we acquired Barefoot Wine [in 2005], we pioneered the syndicated tasting room,” says Gallo. “We introduced brand ambassadors to the wine industry so that today we have 60 brand ambassadors who go out and primarily promote wine in places where wine consumers actually hang out: festivals, charitable causes, etc.”
Gallo also adopted cause marketing methods to help her brands participate in the initiatives that consumers care about. Through events ranging from the Barefoot Beach Cleanup to the Gallo Family Vineyards Every Cork Counts program to a partnership between Liberty Creek and Homes for Our Troops, the brands are able to become more relevant in consumers’ lives.
“The big thing that has changed is that wine is now perceived as a casual social beverage and no longer perceived as an elitist beverage,” says Gallo. “For example, 15 years ago you would never have seen wine in a sports stadium or at outdoor occasions, and now you do. It’s because the consumers have evolved, and because they’ve evolved they’re more receptive to innovative concepts from wineries.”
Still, Gallo believes there is a lot of room for growth. “Only 33 percent of Americans drink wine on a regular basis, and of that 33 percent, 80 percent of the volume is done by 11 percent of the population. So I would argue that our quest to democratize wine still has not been met.”
As Gallo continues her quest, she says the Kellogg network has been a vital tool. “Whenever I’m facing a business challenge or need a recommendation, the Kellogg network has been invaluable in helping me achieve that.”
Not only has the network been helpful for her, but Gallo hopes to inspire other Kellogg students to take up her quest.
“We need people in this industry that want to push boundaries and want to do great things. Because our category is so underdeveloped in this country, it’s ripe for innovation and disruption.”