4 Mistakes to Avoid When Launching A Wine Brand

You’ve made the perfect wine, to the perfect style at the perfect price point. It’s usually about this time when I receive an email that says “Now we just need a label.” In actuality, what is needed is a stand-apart brand. The following is a list of the most common mistakes made by both large and small producers when launching new wine brands:

1. Don’t say you make your wine in the vineyard

Although this may be an irrefutable truth of good winemaking, it’s how nearly every winery describes their process, thus rendering it virtually meaningless to consumers.

DO THIS INSTEAD–MINE YOUR STORY: Mine your own authentic story for memorable details. On the back label of a bottle of Layer Cake, the winemaker describes how his grandfather made wine for 80 years and that the soil where he grew his grapes was stratified like a layer cake.

Layer Cake Wine BottleThe winemaker could have decided to do a literal tribute to his grandfather and name the wine after him, or even put a photo of him on the label. Instead, he mined a small phrase from his personal story and created an instant association for anyone who has ever eaten cake. The metaphor of a layer cake not only describes the character of the wine, but it simultaneously weaves it back to the winemaker’s heritage.

2. Don’t name your wine until you’ve consider your label design

If your name is already set in stone, this doesn’t apply to you. But, if you’ve recently tried to brainstorm a legally protectable brand name, you’ve learned that nearly every purely descriptive and metaphorical name for a wine was swooped up long ago.

DO THIS INSTEAD–START WITH AN IMAGE: Recently, Skinner Vineyards asked us to help them name and design a new wine brand that would appeal to the millennial market. The Skinner family’s ancestor, James Skinner, was a local gold miner turned winemaker. They wanted to create a brand that would continue their family legacy and reflect the history of gold mining in their region.  We decided to focus on the lurid world of the gold mining camps and the dark and dangerous practice of hard rock gold mining.

We began our naming session by printing out images of a sultry saloon girl, a miner with a headlamp and antique detonator box. We hung these images on the wall and brainstormed words to describe them. The moderator directed the group to explore the image of the detonator box and how the device was used. Someone from the naming team quickly responded, “to blast something to smithereens.” The name “Smithereens” was available as a brand name and it was a simple one-word name that paid off the rustic image in an unexpected but memorable way (Read more about Smithereens here).

The power of this approach lies in the fact that more abstract names can be used when they have the support of a strong image. Beginning with an image allows you to generate a longer list of less obvious words, thus increasing your likelihood of creating a new legally protectable name (Learn about other effective naming strategies here).

3. Don’t treat your wine shipper design like an afterthought

Although few would argue the importance of a well-designed label, the humble case shipper often doesn’t receive the same amount of love. Whether you’re a boutique producer or mega-brand, the more attractive your case shipper, the greater likelihood you’ll receive a coveted floor display.

DO THIS INSTEAD–MAKE YOUR SHIPPER A SHOW-STOPPER: The average 12 bottle, 9 Liter capacity case shipper has nearly 700 square inches of usable image area on which to convey your brand’s story. With the advent of retail chain clean-store policies forbidding the use of promotional case cards and the like, the exterior image area of your shipper is more valuable than ever.

Butter Wine Bottle and Shipper
Sometimes, the brand story and label is so simple and bold, that replicating the graphic elements of the label onto the shipper is the best strategy. The vibrant color and dancing typography used on the Butter & Jam brand translates beautifully from their label design to a case shipper with bold visual stopping power.

While the focal point of the Josh Cellars label is the brand logotype in a simple handwritten script, the shipper adds a large, sepia tone image of the winemaker’s father, Josh. Adding photography to the label design would likely make it feel less premium, but its addition to the shipper creates great visual impact while revealing another layer of the Josh story.

4) Don’t ignore how your brand touch points fit together

Just because you’ve nailed down your story, selected the perfect name and designed the perfect label and shipper doesn’t mean your work is done. Creating sales collateral, retail promotions, mobile-responsive websites and social media presences so they convey a consistent message and look can be a daunting task.

DO THIS INSTEAD–DESIGNATE A DESIGN LEAD: Whether you’re a small, family run operation or the director of innovation at a large wine conglomerate, this applies to you. Although packaging design firms, retail promotion agencies and digital agencies are often their own distinct entities, it’s important to have a single point of view to ensure that the brand’s narrative look and feel translate well across all consumer touch points. The person you designate for this role should have enough experience in each medium (packaging, promotions and digital) so they can translate your brand’s story across them as seamlessly as possible.

Being consistent for consistency’s sake is not the goal –being credible and engaging is. Whether your wine brand’s personality is completely authentic or wildly imaginative, your consumer touch points should convey a coherent, compelling brand image.

Stimulating Conversation=Thriving Brand

With the advent of social media, branding and promotional efforts are no longer the one-way conversations they once were. As brand builders, we do our best to convey our story through these touch points –sometimes referred to as our brand’s “promise.” Although we do our best to tell our story through them, the addition of social media creates a two-way conversation that can inform us (and other consumers) on how well we’ve delivered upon our promise. The quality of that initial promise (and the quality of your wine) will determine the length of that conversation and ultimately the success of your brand.

Original Article Published in Packaging World, read it here

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Christopher Hayes is the Principal of Forthright Strategic Design– a San Francisco based design studio that specializes in creating personalities for wine & spirits brands.

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