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A toast to two Niagara firms that get brand positioning right

I recently took a trip to the Niagara region with my team at work to celebrate our company's first anniversary, and had two incredible brand experiences.

As I thought more about why these two companies stood out, I realized they both owe a big part of their success to positioning and delivering on their brand promises.

The Niagara region attracts millions of tourists every year, spurred by a desire to see Niagara Falls and experience the great wineries of one of the most fertile areas in the world.

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Needless to say, the desire to capitalize on tourism and the burgeoning wine industry has led to a very crowded marketplace.

I visited Tawse Winery and AG Inspired Cuisine, two companies doing an excellent job of standing out from their peers with distinct approaches, quality offerings and strong positioning.

Tawse is a family-owned estate winery using a distinctive combination of traditional winemaking and state-of-the-art technology to create a broad portfolio of critically acclaimed wines.

The old-growth, low-yield vines and traditional subterranean cellar are juxtaposed against a strict adherence to biodynamic farming principles and a modern geothermal energy system. The grapes are hand-picked and hand-sorted and the wine gently flows from pressing to bottling through a gravity-processing system making the most of the natural contours of the estate.

As company representatives spoke to us, it was clear that everything they do adheres strictly to their brand positioning and overall philosophy of wine-making.

AG Inspired Cuisine, the first to bring the farm-to-table concept to Niagara Falls, is guided by a desire to make the most of the great ingredients available in the Niagara region. Its menu highlights the provenance of ingredients and staff take great pride in expert pairings with local wines.

"Our menu changes with the seasons, often on a weekly basis," said executive chef Cory Linkson. "With new items being introduced as local ingredients hit their prime, they are prepared and presented to highlight the freshness."

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For both companies, strong brand positioning seems to be paying off.

Tawse recently became the first Ontario winery to be named Canadian Winery of the Year by Canada's Wine Access magazine two years in a row. Its winemaker, Paul Pender, was named winemaker of the year at the Ontario Wine Awards.

AG Inspired Cuisine has seen streams of positive reviews. On Trip Advisor, it is one of the t op-rated full service restaurants in Niagara Falls and often takes the No. 1 spot in Ontario as well.

But neither company stops at such accolades.. They are now taking steps to bring social media into the mix of their strong brand positioning as they seek to reach new customers.

AG Inspired Cuisine has about 500 fans on its Facebook page and Tawse has more than 2,700 followers on Twitter where it shares news about the winery and interacts with fans around their experiences with its wine.

This year Tawse will heavily rely on Twitter to promote its first ever Summer Solstice Concert 2012 in June.

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I have watched so many companies turn to tactics immediately after launching, without taking the time to clearly understand what makes them different and how they will stand out from the competition. In every case, their public relations and social media efforts fail.

By clearly defining their value propositions and philosophies, and consistently communicating them through their products, services and marketing efforts, Tawse and AG Inspired Cuisine have become respected leaders in the region – and provide a great example of how to do it right.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Mia Pearson is the co-founder of North Strategic . She has more than two decades of experience in creating and growing communications agencies, and her experience spans many sectors, including financial, technology, consumer and lifestyle.

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