Chinese consumers still expect higher quality and price from the conventional wine labels with château or vineyard imagery
As a quantitative researcher (also born and raised in China), I’m inclined to believe things are much easier when measured in numbers. Why waste time describing the taste of a good bottle of wine, for instance? In China, some consumers simply say: “It was a 20,000-yuan bottle of wine” and the job is done, so everyone can get on with generating GDP.
About five years ago, some people in China started to adopt a quantitative approach to describe appearance. A new Chinese word 颜值 (yanzhi) suddenly became viral on the internet and it’s still widely used today. It literally means ‘face index’, a mark on the scale of how pleasing a face looks. When someone is good looking, his or her yanzhi is high. If someone has face that stops traffic, his or her yanzhi is ‘off the charts’.
We are often told not to judge a book by its cover. It is clearly not the case in China where ‘face’ (面子) is the key to the Chinese spirit. In the Chinese language, a face can not only be ‘saved’ and ‘lost’, but also be ‘granted’, ‘fought for’ and ‘presented as a gift’. When it comes to wine, can consumer perception (of quality and price) and purchase decision be influenced by a label’s yanzhi?
Our latest Wine Label Design in China 2018 report seeks to investigate the appeal of commonly found and ‘up-and-coming’ label categories in the Chinese market and which connect best with different consumers for a variety of occasions. First, we conducted extensive secondary research and sorted a large number of wine labels found in the Chinese market into categories deemed to have similarities. Wine label design specialist, Amphora, then helped us develop ten labels that best demonstrate the core defining features of each label category: ‘Traditional Prestigious’, ‘Vineyard Stately’, ‘Prestigious’, ‘Classic’, ‘Simple Elegant’, Contemporary’, ‘Artisan’, Vibrant Classic’, ‘Vibrant’ and ‘Bold Illustration’. These ten labels were tested in Vinitrac® China online survey with 1,000 Chinese urban upper-middle class imported wine drinkers. The results of our research can be examined through the lens of brand positioning, in terms of performance (attractiveness, perceived quality and expected price) versus purchase intent for different occasions (relaxing drink at home, celebration and gifting).
Overall, we found that wine labels representative of the conventions of the wine category perform the best for all measures in China. The best performing label category, ‘Traditional Prestigious’, is a highly detail-oriented label. The striking use of red and gold colours and the château / heraldry imagery against a neutral background conveys a sense of heritage and long winemaking tradition. This combination translates into high expectations of quality, price and purchase intent across informal and formal occasions.
On the other hand, eclectic, brightly coloured designs that are far from the conventions of the category are rated as the least attractive labels with lowest quality. However, drilling down deeper into the data, we find that not all hope is lost for these unconventional labels. ‘Bold Illustration’ and ‘Vibrant’ labels featuring eye-catching illustrations are more likely to be purchased for informal occasions and gifting than simple labels with minimal design. Distinctive labels connect best with Social Newbies (the youngest cohort of the wine drinking population) and Adventurous Connoisseurs who are more experimental in their choice and seek individualism and excitement from the category.
So, what can be taken away from the report?
- Chinese consumers still expect higher quality and price from the conventional labels with quality reassurance cues, with ‘Traditional Prestigious’ and ‘Vineyard Stately’ leading for attractiveness, quality perception, price expectation and purchase intent measures
- Labels with vibrant colours and less conventional designs are perceived as less attractive and lower quality, yet more likely to be purchased for gifting and celebration occasions
- Labels that appear to consumers as more ‘neutral’, especially ‘Classic’ and ‘Contemporary’, and lack distinctiveness and quality reassurance cues, have limited appeal and are less likely to be purchased
- Heavy use of red colour (as in ‘Vibrant Classic’) does not always win in China, unless it’s specifically for celebratory and festive occasions
Further analysis and insight can be found in our Wine Label Design in China 2018 report.
Author: Chuan Zhou