US Label Design 2017 1 e1486460516526 - Go boutique or go bust?

Does it pay to stand out, or do middle of the road label designs reap dividends? Wine Intelligence investigates with our latest report, US Label Design 2017.

A wine label has a lot to achieve in such a small space; it not only has to communicate the most basic information about what is inside the bottle –the varietal or region of origin, for example -but also convey a story, set expectations, and implore the consumer to make a decision. Is this the right wine for them? Particularly, is it right for the occasion on which they plan to enjoy it? No matter how brilliant the vintage or refined the winemaker’s skill, a poorly designed label can instantly deter (or attract) consumers.

We wanted to explore the appeal of commonly found label categories in the US wine market, to see which connect and engage best with different consumers and for different occasions. We conducted qualitative research and asked regular wine drinkers to sort a large number of current wine labels into categories they deemed to have similarities. We asked them to explain what the similarities were and didn’t specify how many categories there should be; finally, we asked consumers to give these categories descriptive names.

We partnered with wine label design specialist, Amphora, to develop nine new wine labels which best illustrated the core defining features of each category. This resulted in the formation of our nine tested labels: ‘Prestigious,’ ‘Simple Elegance,’ ‘Vineyard Stately,’ ‘Classic,’ ‘Boutique,’ ‘Simple Contemporary,’ ‘Vintage,’ ‘Bold Text’ and ‘Cartoon Retro’. These nine labels were then tested in our online Vinitrac® survey with over 2,000 US regular wine drinkers, to measure stand out, attractiveness, quality, price perceptions, likelihood to buy and imagery associations for each category.

US Labels - Go boutique or go bust?

The results of our research can be examined through the lens of brand positioning, examining each in terms of distinctiveness (the degree to which a label stands out) versus centrality (the extent to which a label is representative of traditional category conventions). Brightly coloured and image heavy labels such as ‘Cartoon Retro’ and ‘Vintage’ are a far cry from the muted and clean-cut examples we find in ‘Prestigious’ and ‘Classic’. ‘Central’ elements can be defined in terms of traditional wine cues such as varietal, vintage and region of origin, as well as restrained use of imagery, use of strong serif fonts and limited colours. ‘Distinctive’ elements include bright, dominating images with many strong colours and sans-serif fonts which may not provide the usual cues found on more traditional bottles.

Labels displaying central elements perform the best for several measures: they deliver the most stand-out for US regular wine consumers and, with the notable exception of the ‘Classic’ category, are rated more attractive than more distinctive labels, whilst distinctive labels such as ‘Vintage’ and ‘Cartoon Retro’ provide less reassurance. As a result, consumers consistently rank them as having lower perceived quality than other label options, a lower expected price and lower overall likelihood to buy.

Drilling down deeper into the data, we find that not all hope is lost for distinctive labels. Those under 35 do not have the same aversion to that those aged 55 and over demonstrate. Legal drinking age to 34-year-old US regular wines drinkers still rank ‘Bold Text’ and ‘Simple Contemporary’ as less attractive than other options, but not to the extremes found in the 55+ demographic.

The best performing label category, ‘Prestigious,’ is a central label which occupies the coveted branding position of being ‘aspirational.’ The striking use of black and gold colours, strong fonts and imagery confined to heraldry, wine estate or vineyard illustrations is a winning blend of both central and distinctive elements. This combination translates into high expectations of price, quality, and likelihood to buy across all genders, age groups and Portrait wine drinker segments.

In summary, wine labels must walk a tightrope between central, mainstream appeal and more daring visuals in order to appeal to consumers. Producers must have a strong grasp of their target audience and keep their brand positioning in mind when choosing a label design or risk failing to meet their audience’s expectations.

To learn more about label design in the US market, take a look at our US Label Design 2017 report, available now.

Author: James Wainscott