The Power Of Branding In The Label

Posted on November 21, 2016

Besides the obvious, that the wine label performs a crucial function as a marketing tool for the brand – there’s so much more to it, and that’s where a little more talent as a brand ambassador is required to actually get it right.

The label is there to perform three major functions. In which order is often questionable, but first and foremost would be its task as an introduction and source of basic information to the consumer.  Basic information about the wine, cultivar, vintage and estate are obvious, so we’ll move on beyond that.

 Let’s imagine you’re shopping for a bottle of wine and this time you’d like something other than your regular favourite. What have you to go on, if not recommendations or advertising materials jumping out at you? The label, that’s right.  So let’s have a look into this.

Our senses can be rather devious little operating systems at times, and more often than we’d like to know, we actually practice very little control over our retail vulnerability.  A classic example of this is - how come when you’re watching a movie that’s taking place in a snow storm do you often begin to feel cold?  Or where you see actors eating something nice – you want it too? Well, let me tell you this – the advertising masters of this world are only too aware of this “reactive sensation” and waste no time in taking full advantage of our sensory desires and the  things we generally can’t or don’t  want to control.  

Visual stimulation evolves into sensory desires and therefore products are meant to look appealing. Quite rightfully so, since there is such a viscous pack of wolves out there, called market competition and hence businesses need to show their teeth (and some) to ensure that their product wins a chunk of the flesh so to speak.

In order for the label to “win your love” as it were, we have taken particular notice of how over the past 20 years  wine labels have gone from rather conservative, ordinary, and a-typically boring, to an endless display of impressive designs, artistic looks, papers, films, foiling, embossing, personalised uniqueness, decorative extras and just so much more! It’s absolutely mind-boggling!  How is it not possible that this very factor often influences the consumer to change their mind from “their regular” to something else? Highly likely. 

The thing with this is, and it’s fuel for debate -  that a well established wine producer, with a long standing history of success in let’s say a particular wine, enjoy the market support they receive from those who already know their wine and have established a feeling of complacency in that it is what they enjoy and trust. Perhaps a little tasting room charm and good old word of mouth add a few to that. But how long before those very same “loyal customers” begin exploring other wines because of the attraction and trend of labels becoming so much more exciting?  The wine producer is left to ask themselves: Do we change our old conservative label or not? Do we transform over time? Often the thinking behind this is to stick with the old, traditional, set in stone, whatever - perhaps because it has been done like that for so long and the only concern is the current loyal market – with a hint of attitude that says “too bad for those that venture off” - that’s fine if you only produce 2 000 bottles a per year and manage to sell out in advance.  (Alrighty then...)

Let’s go back a bit. The second function of the label is to say something about the brand. Often a well-developed brand strategy is the one that adapts to the times and moves along with change. However some other brands work differently in that they have earned their ranks in the cellar of fame and thus don’t require dramatic change.  Then you get the bold ones who gate-crash the party sporting a ridiculous new label, but you’ll trust the brand name anyway. Now you’re thinking just how much psycho-analysis planning is really involved here hey?  Well, there is a fair degree yes, but often the label is also designed around the trend and movement of the brand itself.

Some companies have progressively moved along with the times, and as such have stayed focussed on market demand and consumer analysis. Adapting their packaging, labelling, design and even the contents of the bottle, to ensure they maintain a happy customer base and sales record. Others have decided, for whichever reason, to stay with the “old look and feel” because of various personal reasons, be it tradition and/or perhaps sentimental reasons.  Let’s be honest, we all know of a good wine or two with an old label that simply never changes. We buy this wine because we trust the brand – or because it’s one of those classics that are so damn good, that the label could even have been a school book sticker, and we’d still buy it!  (Shall we mention names?) But jokes aside, not all have earned quite such an un-challenged reputation.

Back to the point of how the label plays into your “reactive sensation”.  People have favourite things, and many of these things are enjoyed collectively. Let’s think of chocolate? How about coffee, cherries, berries, leather, spices, ripe citrus fruits, green grass, cigar smoke, bananas, caramelised sugar, flowers and even cardboard boxes! If you think back to your childhood now, how many of these had a unique smell or taste in your fondest and most memorable years growing up?  Thought so.  Now with this in mind, can you see how the design troopers are casting out nets to bring you into subconsciously thinking about and wanting these things? One great label comes to mind – and its Boekenhoutskloof, “The Chocolate Block” – beautiful packaging fair enough – but is it more likely that the name is cause for its fantastic sales?

The brand is vital, but equally important is the marketing success of the packaging. Labelling is a marketing support system that follows all other forms of brand promotion, marketing, advertising, reputation and fellow brand products. Fortunately a mistake in bad label design may well be spotted relatively quickly, in which case the label can always be changed – and hopefully no damage was done. But the winning recipe remains in those brands that put a little extra time, research and effort into their label value and design work - who are more likely than others to not only maintain their current customer support but will also grow their market demand and brand awareness.

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