By Dr. Kathy Kelley
If a customer has never tasted the wine inside the bottle before “the label design and execution, as well as the verbiage,” can make or break a sale. It is even suggested that at the point of purchase it only takes about 1.5 seconds for a wine label “to make an impact” on the consumer’s decision to purchase the bottle.
You may have wine labels that are well recognized and that your customers may respond, but it is also valuable to be aware of what some research suggests could attract consumer attention and what some brands are doing to encourage wine drinkers to “engage” with their bottle and (hopefully) share their experience with others.
Label illustrations, color, and design layout
While the “attractiveness” of a label is subjective, research has been conducted to identify label characteristics that appeal to consumers based on brand image (e.g., fun and whimsical) purchase intent (e.g., consumed at a restaurant, to give as a gift), and similar.
Two University of California, Berkeley, researchers conducted a study during which participants evaluated wine labels to measure California Cabernet Sauvignon purchase intent based on six label colors, five illustrations, and three design layouts (Boudreaux and Palmer, 2007). The researchers developed and tested 90 fictitious labels with the same brand name, origin, vintage, and alcohol content. Though the images are black and white and only a subset of the 90 labels is presented you can get a sense of what the labels looked like by accessing the paper here: http://bit.ly/2swFQUg.
Their results revealed that the illustration presented on the label had the strongest effect on “market success factors and on brand personality” and in general the images that received the highest purchase intent scores were: 1) grape motifs and 2) images of a chateaux or vineyards. However, if the brand’s goal is to develop a label to convey “upper class and value,” results suggested that a coat-of-arms illustration would be the best option.
The researchers reported that of the colors they tested, burgundy, red-orange, and neutrals “were seen as successful, desirable, and expensive.”
While the UC Berkeley study did not segment the data based on generation to learn what Millennials might prefer compared to older generations, such data has been published.
A 2015 Gallo Consumer Wine Trends Survey revealed that the label is important to Millennials, and wine drinkers in this generation are “4X more likely than Baby Boomers to often select a bottle of wine based on its label” (http://gallowinetrends.com/home/). While the younger generation is “more likely to look for” labels with personality and originality, Baby Boomers look for information on labels that describe the region of origin and taste descriptors.
Elliot and Barth (2012) focused on understanding Canadian Millennials’ preferences for wine label design and personality. Participants, mostly 19 to 22-year-old undergraduates, were asked to list the most significant factor that influenced their wine purchasing decision. Of the factors listed, 86% of the total mentions referred to an extrinsic [the package] factor (e.g., name of the wine, design layout, bottle) with 33.8% of all the mentions related to the “label,” followed by other “package elements,” color(s) (10% of the mentions), design (9.8%), the bottle (9.3%), and the image (9.1%).
Only 14% of the mentions pertained to intrinsic [the product] factors with the top three mentions being: the producer (6.1% of all mentions), type of wine (3.4%), and alcoholic degree (2.2%). The researchers indicated that though the emphasis, at this point in their drinking career, is on extrinsic factors – it may be possible that “opinions and preferences” may shift to intrinsic factors as they age and their experience with drinking wine increases.
Participants were then asked to assign ratings to indicate how influential (1= not at all influential to 5 = extremely influential) six packaging characteristics were on their bottle selection. The top three influential characteristics (rated between 3.83 to 4.00) were: label image or picture, design layout, and color. Name of the wine, description of the wine, and shape of the bottle were less influential. The authors point out that price was not tested, but if it was it probably would have “had a significant influence.”
Trying to learn what label factors appeal to certain generations is not restricted to just New World wine brands. Some wineries Bordeaux are designing labels that (hopefully) appeal to younger wine drinkers.
According to an article published in February 2017 (http://bit.ly/2sxYH10), the author interviewed two Bordeaux label designers about their approach to designing “non-traditional” labels. One designer is quoted as saying, “The new generation of Bordeaux winemakers…[are] trying to break out from overwhelming history” by using “‘avant-garde’ design approaches.” Another designer and the winemaker at Château Chasserat created a non-traditional wine called Père N 1775 (which includes the French word for father and the year the winery was created). The associated logo has more of an Aztec feel/look than that of château or vineyard you would expect to see on a traditional bottle of Bordeaux.
It is important to note that generation is not the only demographic that could impact response to wine labels, or any extrinsic or intrinsic characteristic. Culture has been studied by a few researchers to learn how it may affect response to a wine brand, promotional approach, label/bottle characteristics, etc.
Lockshin and Cohen (2009) investigated what influenced consumers from 11 countries when purchasing wine. Though examples of wine labels were not presented, participants were asked to indicate the relative importance of “an attractive front label,” in addition to 12 other factors (e.g., the origin of the wine, grape variety, promotional display in-store).
Participants were segmented into three groups based on their responses to survey questions. While the smallest of the three groups, 16% of survey participants, one of the segments was based on making wine purchasing decisions based on displays, attractive front labels, and back labels. A quarter of respondents from the UK were in this group, with slightly fewer Austrians (22.5%), Germans (20.9%), participants from the USA (16.4%), and Brazilians (15.4%) belonging. Ten percent or fewer of participants from Australia, France, Israel, Italy, and New Zealand, and Taiwan were assigned to this group as larger percentages of these consumers made choices based on recommendations/previous experience or based on variety, origin, brand name, and awards.
“Cool” and interactive wine labels
Last year, Pace Magazine published a list of seven wine bottles with labels that drinkers could play with, including one that revealed a “secret message” when a little bit of wine is poured on it and another that had a pull tab that served as a wishbone (http://bit.ly/2sx46qe). Add to this the other online sources that create their own annual lists: Tasting Table (http://bit.ly/2tuwllM), Forbes (http://bit.ly/2tuzkuB), BuzzFeed (http://bzfd.it/2tuy3U2), and many others.
While the graphics, layout, and colors used on the label certainly attract purchasers, there are several brands that have added a Quick Response code (QR code; http://bit.ly/2std07Q) to their label. The code, when scanned with a smartphone QR code reader, directs the consumer to a website with other pertinent information about the winery, the particular wine in the bottle, videos, social media sites, or anything that the winery decides.
One such brand is Brancott Estate in Marlborough, New Zealand. The company developed the “Brancott Estate World’s Most Curious Bottle” app (http://bit.ly/2st5sC3) in 2012 so that wine drinkers could “interact” with bottles of their Sauvignon Blanc. I have included some screenshots that I took while I was using the app, below.
While I did have a bottle of the wine that I could use for this demonstration, if you do not have one you can use a picture of the bottle/QR code (from one of their magazine advertisements, for example) and certain app activities are available on app even if do not have a bottle/photo.
A Spanish wine brand, Bodegas Vihucas (Toledo, Spain) has created a blend of Tempranillo, Merlot, and Graciano called 8 TICKETS(http://www.8tickets.es/el-vino/; retail price of 9.60 euros). The label is a metro map that when removed from the bottle (held in place with two stickers), after which it becomes a “game board.” includes directions on how to play the game, and has a space for the drinker(s) to color, draw, and decorate with stickers.
While I don’t have a picture of the bottle/label/game board, as the wine is only available a few Spanish markets (http://8tickets.es/localiza-tu-tienda/), they do have a Facebook Page with reviews (https://www.facebook.com/8tickets/) and Instagram account with images of the bottles and groups of drinkers having fun with the label/game board (https://www.instagram.com/8tickets/). I did contact the brand and was informed that 8 TICKETS will be available in the U.S. “soon.”
As you might expect, the 8 TICKETS concept and label was developed to appeal to the Millennial wine drinker. Specifically, the aim of the 2016/2017 A’Design Award & Competition Packaging Design Category winner was to “bring wine to [Millennials] through a memorable and participative experience…show young people all the situations in which wine can be a regular consumption product rather than being reduced to [only being drunk on] special occasions” (http://bit.ly/2sYyvKL).
If you would like to learn about wine and alcoholic beverage product and packaging trends as soon as items launch, visit Trendhunter.com. You can learn about the new Coors Light can that changes colors when exposed to UV light rays (currently available in the Canadian market, http://bit.ly/2sYxwdM), Croatian wine that is aged in the Adriatic Sea in glass and clay vessels for 2 years at a depth of 20 meters (http://bit.ly/2sYveeu), and drinkable glitter flakes with a “subtle raspberry flavor” that can be added to a glass of prosecco for an even more sparkling wine (http://bit.ly/2sYhv7r).
What is presented in this blog post is just a small portion of the studies and examples of wine labels/bottle characteristics that appeal to consumers. At Penn State, we have conducted several studies that investigated consumer response to a number of different wine bottle components. Among the data that we have published in this blog, one study, in particular, focused on what information and features a winery should consider including on the back label (http://bit.ly/2sxTre7). As with other marketing information we post, it is crucial to understand who your customer is and ask them to respond to your label ideas before making any significant changes or investments.
Boudreaux, C.A., & Palmer, S.E. (2007). A charming little cabernet. International Journal of Wine Business Research, 19(3), 170-186. doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezaccess.libraries.psu.edu/10.1108/17511060710817212
Elliot, S., & Barth, J.E. (2012). Wine label design and personality preferences of millennials. The Journal of Product and Brand Management, 21(3), 183-191. doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezaccess.libraries.psu.edu/10.1108/10610421211228801
Lockshin, L. & Cohen, E. (2009). Using product and retail choice attributes for cross-national segmentation. European Journal of Marketing, 45(7/8), 1236-1252.