Designing Your Beverage Brand with Laurie Millotte


by Drew Hendricks
Last updated May 2, 2021

Legends Behind the Craft Podcast

Last Updated on May 2, 2021 by rise25

Drew Thomas Hendricks (03:23):
Oh, I can relate.

Laurie Millotte (03:23):
I would take pictures of the setup so that I would be able to more or less redo it six months later when the white now coming in and I had to photograph, so they do cookies. If you know what, even though I had the best intention, it was never the same. Pictures that you take six months apart, it’s just, but then you put them in the lineup on an ad and they’re like, something is iffy here. It just doesn’t work.

Laurie Millotte (03:45):
So one day I also decided to go travel the world. So I was one of those digital nomad. Obviously this was pre pandemic. And I had my laptop and all of that, but I didn’t take with me all the photography gear that would definitely be over board with my luggage allowance with the airlines and during this travel, I went to see Jurassic World, true story. I went to the movies, left the theater, and it just hit me. If we did dinosaurs using CGI, Computer-Generated Imagery and looked so realistic, surely, surely there’s a way to bring the technology to the wine industry and make beautiful bottle shot using 3D software and find the economics behind it.

Laurie Millotte (04:25):
It was a bit random, but that’s really how the idea sparked. And because I was a designer, I already worked with clients. So I already had wine labels, I already had all of this. So I use these people as guinea pig, if you will. Just like studying, putting it together, found an amazing 3D artist to bring my vision to life and then put together a quick Squarespace websites or critic order and launched Outshinery. That was it. That was 2016 till… Yeah 2016.

Drew Thomas Hendricks (04:57):
Oh my gosh. So you started on Squarespace and you had the 3D modeling on your computer. And then how did you scale that? You didn’t seem to be bottles for everybody. You might have some challenges there.

Laurie Millotte (05:11):
Definitely. We still do. Like right now we work with about 600 customers around the world and that’s about 1500 brands. Just to be clear, winery is more than one brand, not all of them, but they usually do an average and that’s all over the world because the beauty of Outshinery is we don’t need physical samples because that also used to be a thing that drive me crazy as living in Canada. I would be able to do a design for wineries in California, for example, but getting actually samples shipped across the world for photography was just a nightmare. So that was also like the challenge that way.

Drew Thomas Hendricks (05:43):
Or the samples will arrive damaged and just not usable.

Laurie Millotte (05:46):
Or just missing one bottle. Like, Oh my God, we have to redo it all over again. And just like so yeah, that was like the challenge. If you can remind me the question that you just asked before I went on a tangent.

Drew Thomas Hendricks (05:56):
It was just kind of the challenges of scaling. And I think a lot of what our listeners need to know is that you’re taking bottle shots and they look like you have the bottle right there in a professional studio. But you’ve got bottle blanks and they send you the labels and you make sure I’m sure I understand this right. And then the labels and you put the labels on the bottles and in different scenes.

Laurie Millotte (06:18):
Yeah. They send us the label files.

Drew Thomas Hendricks (06:23):
The files, yes.

Laurie Millotte (06:24):
The files. Yeah. So whatever the winery sends to the printers to actually be executed on paper, this is what we need. So this is where we would be able to pick up all the details of their packaging. So we can be your embossing, your goal for your paper texture. I’ve been working in the industry for 15 years. So when you say like, Oh, we use [inaudible 00:06:43] eight Fast on. I’m like, yep, we exactly have this in stock. If you will, in your digital library. We also know all the shape from the different glass suppliers around the world. Last time I checked we have about 170 different wine bottle shapes. So we have all different slope of shoulder. And if we don’t have it, we create it from scratch in a 3D software.

Laurie Millotte (07:05):
So then we would be able to not give you a mock-up, but really an actual representation of your product. In terms of scaling, the extra challenge on top of which is that I am also not a developer. I’m a graphic designer by training, art director, but a bit of a geek and I’ve always been fascinated on leveraging technology to kind of take away the busy work, the repetitive work and how to have it connect together. So starting to Squarespace, which is this online builder websites, it’s very easy that also kind of, I use as a business plan builder, even in my head, as my idea was forming. It was very easy to move around the blocks and then use technologies that just connect things together. So we use that tech form and then we use the services like Zapier that just make the app talk to each other.

Laurie Millotte (07:52):
And then what really like the magic behind it all is having a project manager and project management system. We use a signer that just keeps everything in one central source of truth. Of course, from them that we evolved, not how the CTO, Chief Technology Officer. We’re hiring more developers. So we are really growing, but I think we look much more tech advanced than we were behind the scene, but that was purposely because we only had the vision. But when I had the idea for Outshinery at a time, especially for any outsider of the wine industry, they thought it was very niche and a bit crazy.

Laurie Millotte (08:28):
And so I was thinking a bit the same, but I’m like I’ve been proven right, I think. It has been really fascinating to grow and get customers. I get always a kick when work customers in Tasmania, South Africa. I went to visit South Africa and I stayed at the winery. Like it was just like, it’s just wonderful.

Drew Thomas Hendricks (08:46):
Oh, awesome. How awesome is that? And then you don’t just do the bottle shots, you help put them into actual scenes so that they can-

Laurie Millotte (08:51):
Yes.

Drew Thomas Hendricks (08:52):
So it’s really a one-stop shop for them where they’ve got the bottle. Now they can actually have compelling social media scenes, marketing scenes.

Laurie Millotte (09:00):
Yeah. So the way again, I’m a bit of a movie person, but I mentioned Jurassic World. And then what we do is keeping on the metaphor of Hollywood is imagine we do, we always start with our bottle shop because it’s a bit like casting the actor, right? Like we need to cast Tom Hanks, which is like, get all the details perfect, your capsule and your bottle shape your wine color, but that’s just like part one. This is like on your resume and I just felt like the tasting notes of you see like your online store, but it’s a bit dry and boring and it’s like another bucket it’s not much you can do in terms of enticing marketing content with just the standard bottle shop.

Laurie Millotte (09:35):
So what we do is we partner and work with different photographers and prop stylists. So they put together elements, decos, like plates, napkins, and all the little props around the scene that just make something really nice looking, but it is actually a ton of work to assemble and to have the eye for and then the shoot for us like this, what we call lifestyle images because they are blank. They on purpose have no bottles, but they are designed with bottles in mind. And then just like the whole kid, the Avenger, we drop your bottle in that scene using CGI. And you would never know that it’s like a hybrid that cautious like real. I mean, there’s digital photography and the other half of the bottles are 3D rendering.

Drew Thomas Hendricks (10:20):
That’s amazing. I did not know that. When I went to your site, I was looking through it. It wasn’t until I actually drilled down that I realized that some of these scene shots were all done virtually through your computer. That’s amazing. Now I did see that in the scenes that you asked for the country and the area. Do you customize those for the different areas so they’re regional?

Laurie Millotte (10:40):
Interesting. So that’s something that we have done online. Right now we’re asking, like your regional area just to kind of avoid overuse of certain image. We are conscious that we work in the wine industry niche. And the last thing we want is for you to have a life style image to a scene that you love is your product. And then your next door neighbor winery turned out to have purchased the same image with their bottles.

Drew Thomas Hendricks (11:03):
I can see that.

Laurie Millotte (11:03):
So exactly. So that’s just kind of something that we want to be safeguard on. So like, let’s say your winery in California, you use that lifestyle image and for the upcoming I’m drawing the rank here three to four months, nobody else in that area can claim this image. But if let’s say a winery in Tasmania wants to use the same image there, then of course it is released. So the idea is Outshinery is seen as economy of scale so they can offer these images for a reasonable price, but at the same time, wineries are protected enough that there’s no crazy other knock. At the end of the day though, I think worth mentioning is that for each of the lifestyle images, we really want to put the focus on the bottles in the image.

Laurie Millotte (11:46):
I think it’s also [inaudible 00:11:51] customers they can see an image on an Instagram feed and then I’m not even sure if two months later a winery neighbor uses the same image, but maybe crop different… But for us, that’s how we want to serve the industry and get that in place. That’s why we asked where you are from.

Drew Thomas Hendricks (12:06):
No, that’s great. Keep it a little more bespoke. Keep it individual. That’s great. That’s perfect.

Laurie Millotte (12:12):
Yeah. So one of the product actually like, we are really excited to be launching much more regularly, like monthly starting January 2021 is we work with not only a photographer and a stylist for the scene, but also a recipe developer. So every month the developer usually also, they do cookbooks and everything like that’s their job, but we ask them like, okay, here are four wine profiles, like a Sauvignon Blanc, a bold Cabernet Sauvignon, a couple of things. And then we want a recipe developed around that wine profile. So the idea is we have the full recipe that is unique and belongs to Outshinery that we have both in Imperial because you North Americans still do ounces and whatever that means. So like the system that makes sense. It’s just a metric system.

Laurie Millotte (13:05):
Everybody else depending on again where you are. We make sure to customize, but again, it’s the beauty of it. [inaudible 00:13:11] cards are delivered to you as like PNG that you can embed on your website, but also PDF ready to print. So you can include it in your next wine [inaudible 00:13:19].

Drew Thomas Hendricks (13:18):
Oh nice.

Laurie Millotte (13:20):
And they will include on the front of the recipe, not only a picture of the recipe. We just did work in the bowl with oysters and they go on very own like sauce [inaudible 00:13:29]. On that image, you will also place the picture of your wine, not the picture of the wine in the scene. So it’s your wine in that recipe. And we even created some space in that recipe card to talk a little bit about your wine. So it’s like a 10% of your usual tasting notes, but that recipe that the person is holding in their hand is all about your brand. But it was-

Drew Thomas Hendricks (13:52):
That’s fantastic. That would really help with the unboxing. It becomes so important when you get your wine deliveries, you want to show that, especially with COVID and people aren’t visiting the wineries as much, it’s important that you have a little bit of your physical brand expression when you’re delivering and you’re not just [inaudible 00:14:07].

Laurie Millotte (14:07):
Yeah. So we have like a short paragraph at the end, or it’s like a story about like the winery and with the logo and then on the front of the card where we can see all sorts of bottled pictures, it’s the awards the wine won like the overall tasting notes and why it’s perfect for that recipe that we’re following.

Drew Thomas Hendricks (14:26):
Yeah. Now we help wine suppliers, their content and their messaging and their story. And I do have to say your Outshinery website is stellar. You go to it, I see the story and I immediately grasp what you’re doing and why pretty much every winery needs to be using you. But most of the suppliers out there don’t have the same type of site. There’s a complete disconnect with the good stuff they’re doing and the content on their page. What advice could you give some of your fellow suppliers, trying to target wineries to make their site a little more relevant to the winery that may hop on the site.

Laurie Millotte (14:58):
Yeah. I think almost like I want to say empathy. Yeah, sometimes I think it’s very easy to… It’s so funny that you mentioned that website explained it. I look at our website and I mostly like it, but there’s so many things that we need to change, are not working.

Drew Thomas Hendricks (15:16):
You’re never finished. You’re never finished. That may be the biggest tip. Your website’s never done.

Laurie Millotte (15:21):
It’s never ending. But honestly where are people that are visiting your website coming from? And also what are their expectation and their level? I think one thing that really I’ve been emphasizing with wineries is the bar is being raised across the board. I think COVID just made that even more clear. I mean, I have a coffee subscription now from my little coffee shop down the street from me, obviously they’re using an easier platform like Shopify because it’s not wine, but the website looks stellar. I know what product I’m buying. I can read the label on the pack that they actually took a picture of which I’m sorry to say that a lot of winery website, you can’t even read the information, recognize the label.

Laurie Millotte (16:03):
Of course, I hate to mention Amazon because that’s not the world we are in, but that’s where the people that buy online think winery website that’s their world, that’s a level that you expect now. You expect a bottle on probably for the white background. And it’s clearly readable and it’s clearly no surprise. Trustworthiness, I think. And just again, a purchase of a case of wine is a lot of money. It’s not cheap.

Drew Thomas Hendricks (16:30):
And a winery looking to purchase a piece of equipment, they’re spending a quarter million dollars and they’re going to be looking at those different barrel producers, they are going to be looking at the different tanks companies and those producers they tend to open many of them, we’re not speaking about any, but many of them just tend to show their equipment and they don’t empathize. I think you hit the nail right there. They don’t explain to the wineries how their piece of equipment is going to help make the winery much better. Faster.

Laurie Millotte (17:01):
[inaudible 00:17:01] something and again it’s a work in progress and I think we have it correct and that fully figured out, but I always, always encourage when I work with Jean, my teammate who is a copywriter and resident, it’s very easy sometimes to just because we feel more confident to talk about ourselves, right? So it’s like, “Oh, “we” something, something,” “We believe that our solution is the best,” or something like that. But sometimes it’s looking to write the first draft or the first approach that way. But I really recommend force yourself. Okay, here’s an angle. We don’t need physical samples for Outshinery to proceed. Technically, it’s correct and everything, but all the emphasis is on us, Outshinery.

Laurie Millotte (17:39):
What if we tweaked the sentence would be like, “You don’t need to go to the warehouse and send us any physical samples.” It’s about them. So sometimes it’s a very easy exercise, but going through it and just flipping and it’s never rocket science, but it puts you in this shoes of being much more empathetic and understanding your audience, which you are anyway, but speaking it, expressing it.

Drew Thomas Hendricks (18:02):
Those are great words. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Who are you trying to target? Rather than talk about who you are. Well, you need talk about who you are, but put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Going into 2021, we’ve escaped 2020, we all have bright visions for 2021, but there’s some headwinds. What are some of the challenges you see suppliers facing in 2021?

Laurie Millotte (18:26):
One of the main challenges would be again, it comes to everyone, but just to almost to fire on all cylinders. I think now we’re aware that, Hey, like DGC on an online website, online presence that is really maintained maybe on social media platform, but on the website, something that is not with a footer or footer like 2019, she’s like, okay, we’re now in 2021. It’s just to me like a red flag. You haven’t looked at your website since 2019. I’m not trusting that website. I don’t know, this is a big warning. So having this and not letting go of the efforts, but still reopening the channel that had been put on pause during COVID. I think that could be one of the main challenge. And one thing I really, really hope is that people are not going to give up on all the hard work I put in 2020 because of the force measure, if you will, but just really like a such.

Laurie Millotte (19:21):
Still, I think to this day, even early ’21, right now, as we’re recording this, I’m thinking be an opportunity that can be tapped even further. Just scratch the surface.

Drew Thomas Hendricks (19:30):
I think so in Outshinery all through last year, you ran a series of webinars. You had a series of different… You were super, super busy. And I feel like a lot of the companies took one of two approaches, some hunkered down and they just remained quiet for months. You embraced it and totally evolved and amplified this entire message.

Laurie Millotte (19:49):
We did. We tried to.

Drew Thomas Hendricks (19:51):
Which it’s commendable. I remember from April 1st on, you were one of the first webinars I had watched was back then.

Laurie Millotte (19:58):
I just did a new one today.

Drew Thomas Hendricks (20:01):
Oh, did you? Awesome. What was it about?

Laurie Millotte (20:04):
We call it Behind the Shine. And this one is where we actually have onstage, I mean on Zoom, team members of Outshinery and we kind of open up a bit more [inaudible 00:20:15] and today was about customer experience actually. And it’d be like the technologies that we use behind the scenes, some of the CRM and tech and just kind of a bit of approach that way. So that was a very first one that. We hope to do those once a quarter. And then other than that, they are on the spot series, which is like where we bring in that external guests and those are once a month.

Drew Thomas Hendricks (20:36):
That’s a great idea. So let me care to share a secret. What CRM are you using?

Laurie Millotte (20:41):
Say that again.

Drew Thomas Hendricks (20:42):
You said you talked about your CRM.

Laurie Millotte (20:43):
So we don’t use a standard CRM. So right now we use Active Campaign, which does both our-

Drew Thomas Hendricks (20:50):
Incredible. It’s got a CRM in it.

Laurie Millotte (20:54):
I think actually it’s got a component of it. It’s not the most robust CRM, but that’s not also what we use it for, where we do make sure though that we do feed everything into that CRM. So using anti-coal mat, which is like a connector of apps a bit like Zapier. So then we have a central source of truth about a contact posted in Active Campaign.

Drew Thomas Hendricks (21:16):
No, that’s great. I love Active Campaign. So I’d say I saw you guys do in 2020 in the hunkering going into 2021, those people that have been kind of resting on the sidelines, waiting for it to be over. I got to say, you guys got to start turning up the engine, start firing up the cylinders, get going.

Laurie Millotte (21:34):
Get going and fast yeah. The good news is I guess I would try and we can help you with your bottle imagery in like a few business days. You could get discovered.

Drew Thomas Hendricks (21:45):
Speaking about bottle imageries, you don’t just do wines, do you? You do beers?

Laurie Millotte (21:49):
I mean, wine is a core product, not product, industry right now. We also do beers indeed. More and more spirits is something that we’re going to launch a bit more further down the year. And then also things that have proven challenging when it comes also to legislation. So some cannabis product, more nation but, we of course often not often, occasional olive oil. It’s quite common that [inaudible 00:22:16] olive oil, so we never say no.

Drew Thomas Hendricks (22:18):
Oh that makes sense.

Laurie Millotte (22:20):
But I would say a good 80%, like our core business right now is really providing as much as possible a stellar experience for wineries to we really, yeah. We love the industry and we feel the most confident that we can have the perfect solution for them.

Drew Thomas Hendricks (22:35):
Amazing, amazing. So to wrap down this podcast and it’s been super, super interesting to hear how Outshinery started and the way you take those bottles shots, what are you reading these days?

Laurie Millotte (22:48):
So I am a first time startup founder, and I try to raise my first business and I feel I have a lot to catch up. So right now what I’m reading is This Won’t Scale, which is a very small book put together by the team at Drift. Drift is actually the software we use. It’s a live chat tool and a chat bot on a website.

Drew Thomas Hendricks (23:10):
Great company.

Laurie Millotte (23:10):
I just [crosstalk 00:23:12] a great company out of Boston. I really like how they approach growth and marketing. I’m just being a bit unconventional. So I’m going to read you that to subtitles, to make it a bit more. So obviously This Won’t Scale. In the world of startup is like, Oh, you can’t make this really big. Watch me. I can make Outshinery really big. And this is 41 plays from the Drift marketing team to help your business cut through the noise, grow faster than the competition and thrill your customers. That’s what I’m reading right now. And I have a lot of notes and post-its, as you can see.

Drew Thomas Hendricks (23:42):
I’m going to get a copy of that. I read their conversational marketing book, but I haven’t read this one.

Laurie Millotte (23:46):
I think it came before.

Drew Thomas Hendricks (23:48):
Oh, it did?

Laurie Millotte (23:49):
Yeah.

Drew Thomas Hendricks (23:50):
I guess I jumped to the sequel. So we’ve been talking with Laurie Millotte from Outshinery. Laurie, where can people get ahold of you or contact you?

Laurie Millotte (23:59):
I think the best way is to find me on LinkedIn. I have a strange name, so I’m the only one. And then I’m sure you can edit this to be making in the comments of the post. And please don’t hesitate to check us outshinery.com and you are very welcome. For people that are not familiar with what Outshinery does, we offer a free test shot. Seeing is believing. So you are more than welcome to try it for yourself and get a really good understanding of not only how does it work, but the kind of results that we can achieve with your wine bottles.

Drew Thomas Hendricks (24:29):
Sounds great. And I do want to point out to all of our listeners that you also have a podcast. It’s called Wine Tech Insiders, and you might want to tell them about it because if you’re interested in the wine industry and you’re interested in tech, it’s something you should be listening to.

Laurie Millotte (24:42):
So Wine Tech Insider started early 2021. It’s kind of like this ongoing effort to not let all the efforts to go like be digital in 2020, like tapering out. So Wine Tech Insiders is a really fun podcast that comes out twice a month and where I’m in a conversation with three other founders and a business owner in the tech wine industry. So we have Seb from Trolley out of Vancouver as well, actually. And then we have Jonathan from Bottle Book out of Munich, Germany, and then we have a few more people like wine that’s from London. So really interesting conversation and we just kind of catch up.

Laurie Millotte (25:22):
It’s kind of like almost like a unscripted conversation and the latest news in the wine industry applying to tech and just this conversation across continent and really helping understand the industry we are in, where it’s going and be at the top of the sphere.

Drew Thomas Hendricks (25:36):
I have to say, I subscribe, I am an avid listener and I love the international component to it because you’ve got people from all around the world.

Laurie Millotte (25:43):
I think it’s important. It’s important because and just think reality is we live in a global world and sounds obvious, but I find sometime we’re just a bit too divided about continent and I really appreciate it as well being reminded there’s a bigger, bigger world at play and some of the things you can learn about like behind the scene at the London Wine Fair Event. Obviously all of this can apply to 11 being put in North America or any leadership it’s irrelevant, like the geographical component of it. So I find it very interesting and refreshing personally. Maybe the French in me. Sometimes I get a bit confined with too much North America.

Drew Thomas Hendricks (26:23):
I love it. I love it. Well, we’ve been talking with Laurie Millotte of Outshinery and you know where to find her and you know where to find her on the podcast. Check her out and subscribe. Thank you.

Laurie Millotte (26:32):
Thanks again for having me.

Drew Thomas Hendricks (26:33):
Thank you so much.

Outro (26:38):
Thanks for listening to the Legends Behind the Craft Podcast. We’ll see you again next time and be sure to click subscribe to get future episodes.