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Susan DeMatei
April 10, 2014 | Print Design | Susan DeMatei


We have a special “Guest Glass” post today: Courtney Holmes from Talk is Sheep Marketing, a wine marketing design firm specializing in wine label design.  Courtney is always in-the-know for all things wine-label related, and she agreed to write a post for us on the latest trends as well as “what not to wear” for the fashionable wine bottle about town.

Take it away Courtney….

Wine label designs aren’t like what they use to be 20 years ago or more. Design is becoming increasingly more important and if you don’t keep up with the best practices, your wine will likely be relocated to the discount bin. Here are some guidelines and inspiration for your future wine label design.

Convey Value

Unfortunately for wine, the book is judged by it’s cover. 80% of wine in the US is purchased at retail establishments, not the tasting room, so the majority of those purchases are made based on presentation of the wine packaging. Sure, they may be repurchases and/or purchases based off of reviews, but I suspect the majority of consumers are not doing that much research.

How are they making their purchase decision? Ask most consumers and if they are honest they will say the wine packaging. Many consumers believe that if the label, bottle, capsule and closure look appealing then they can assume the wine tastes just as appealing. This isn’t just the case for wine, this goes for most any food or drink products purchased in packaging. And the crazy fact is, the packaging actually influences their taste perception!

So invest in a quality designer. Make sure they are creative and know the industry. But also invest in paper quality of the label  and it’s beautiful embellishments of foil, paper texture, embossing and debossing. These small details all convey value to the consumer. An amazingly designed label printed on a  flat cheap wine label paper communicates that you don’t invest in your product. Splurge a few cents more per label so that the consumer can give you the benefit of the doubt.

Be Different

I think of wine labels as a sonnet or haiku, you have these specific rules that you must follow but within those rules creativity can fully blossom. You have this general shape to the bottles, you only have the option of screen printed or paper (unless you have a huge budget) and you have very limited space to communicate your brand’s identity and value. But within these guidelines is ample opportunity to stand out.

Don’t do what you see your neighbors and competitors doing on their wine labels. That may not be what is making their brand successful. And who really knows their bottom line unless they are a public company? If you can help it, step outside of the box. Don’t put a chateau, grape or vine on your label or you will never stand out amongst the other brands.

I love  browsing Total Wine or Pinterest and researching ideas on how to be different with wine label design. 

Save the witty name for the vintage, not the brand

The name conveys so much meaning on your wine label. It is often what attracts the consumer to pick it off the retail shelves to bring home or to a party. Remember the wine we buy says more about us than it does the producer. We buy because we identify with the brand. That is why the name is so important.

But beware. Word is out that gimmicky wine brands will cost you. True, Mommy Juice and Pinot Evil are definitely shelf poppers, but once the joke it shared, the joke is done. The laugh is had and the consumer likely moves onto a new brand. Retail establishments have noticed that these wines often have to be sold at cost via discount prices so they are no longer willing to invest in their inventory.

Here is a better idea, name your latest vintages the gimmicky wine names, not the brand. Then as soon as the joke is up, you can rename the next years vintage a new name without having to rebrand your whole company. Naked Winery is a great example of this technique. They have lots of fun with their vintages “Naked Couple,” “Red Hot Trio” and “Booty Call Blush.”

Be Consistent in Your Wine Label Design

I think sometimes wine producers secretly love the design process because I often see this “no-no” in wine packaging design. I often see in small production wineries a different wine label for many of their wines. Now I don’t mean the simple modifications made for different bottle sizes or even the modified labels for the higher end library collections or reserve wines. What I mean is wines from the same producer and brand, but different varietals with vastly different designs.

This is a no-no because it confuses the consumer and they don’t recognize your brand. So if they have had your wine before and loved it, they will likely not recognize your other varietals if they are not in the same packaging. So you loose brand equity rather than gain it when you continually redesign your labels.

Below is a really good example of modified wine labels, but consistently designed so that the consumer is able to recognize them as the same brand.

About the Author

Courtney Holmes is the founder and creative director of Talk is Sheep Marketing, a wine marketing design firm specializing in wine label design, wine websites and wine logos.


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