Do labels dress for success?

Posted on July 20, 2017

Do labels dress for success?

Sometimes I find that labels can be pretty much like people. You get those who will get up in the morning – at like 4am to begin their laborious task of grooming, dressing, make-up and an endless plethora of titivating to ensure they look like a magazine cover page model before they step out to put the garbage out.  Then there are those who get up at 7:45, dress, pack lunch and still make it to work by 8. No make-up and no fuss.  I however am neither and possibly something in between.

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Wine labels are much the same though. There are those that you can clearly see have put some form of effort or creative thought into it, and then there those that simply missed the boat and ended up with a piece of paper and an elastic band. (Well near enough) In spite of these two extremities, both fall within the borders of what is acceptable, attractive and ultimately desired.  We as society are a funny bunch of consumers at best and there is never going to be any specific rule that encapsulates all our tastes and preferences.  Fortunately so – as this is the core reason as to why there is such a vast variety in wine label designs and styles available!   

So with this in mind, can one really ask the question as whether labels DO dress for success?

Perhaps we need to identify what exactly the term “success” refers to first. Is it for recognition of the product? Or is it perhaps intended to be an extension of the title producer? Is it to entice consumers to buy the product? Is it aimed to stand out above the rest? Shock, alarm, seduce or is it simply to wear the uniform of the brand?

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Let’s assume it’s all of the above.

The extremities exist. So producer (a) decides to stick within their traditional perimeters of what is and isn’t allowed on their label. It’s basic, straight forward, neat and bares all the necessary protocol of their brand ethics.  The label is in two colours, no images and states exactly who the producer is. (And that’s about it)  On the back label all the requirements are met regarding their respective affiliated associations and strict trade license prerequisites and a short little bio of the estate.  Nothing about the wine and no extra trimmings for effect. This is how it’s been done for 300 years and therefore it’s a rule cast in stone and it will not change, ever. Well, perhaps only time (and the elasticity of the owners arm) will tell.

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Producer (b) has let their hair down a bit. Their ranges all differ in terms of looks and somewhere only the slightest effect gives you the impression that they are in fact related. They’re bold and daring and their labels push the limits of what is and isn’t acceptable in a somewhat flexible branding guide. They combine creative imagery, paper choice, wording and other interesting elements which have been cleverly assigned the task to impress the consumers’ visual sense. Haraaah!!! – we have struck gold!! ...Or have we?

Is there a plot or a plan?  In the case of producer (a) they have ticked all the boxes but it remains arguable as to whether they haven’t perhaps remained in the proverbial box in doing so? Some of these “more conservative” labels have certainly found their place in the market and enjoy a healthy bottom line in terms of the sales report. However this is possibly reserved to the notion that they already have an established following, a distinguished consumer profile if you like, who know their wines and remain relatively loyal to the brand.

This is possibly a fairly healthy strategy – in that you don’t try fixing something that already works as they say. That’s fine, but the question pops up as to how the brand is being promoted to new consumers? It’s hardly likely that a new fan will choose a mundane label without some prior recommendation or tip-off to a good wine. But fair to say that those classic and reputable brand labels have earned their rightful place in the market - and other forms of marketing are likely the contributing factors as to how the label remains successful and steady in the market.

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However – back to producer (b) - there is a far greater element of risk (and dare I say excitement) involved.  But make no mistake, these risks are often carefully calculated, as these are the guys that rope in graphic designers, content creators, market gurus and the list goes on before they just conclude a new label.  Let’s be honest, they would have to be pretty confident when changing a label on a production of say a hundred thousand bottles! But hey, on the flipside, a label could be the very reason they wish they’d doubled their produce! It all boils down to the marketing and the effect the label has on the consumer.

In conclusion we can only assume that everyone – be it conservative and plain, or adventurous, risky and often pretty entertaining, (and everything in between) that there is bound to be market out there for all. Fortunately we don’t all like the same things and we don’t all dress alike – and hence our taste differs and we make our own decisions.  Though we live in a time of ever-evolving modern technology (and jaw-dropping creatures on the catwalk) fortunately, there remains a demand for both the alternative and funky as well as the more ordinary and traditional designs!

 

Cheers to enjoying the labels you love - and cheers to exploring the ones you’re yet to find!

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