Tag Archives: branding

Wine labels done right, a discovery at VinCE

A couple weeks ago I found myself in Budapest for the VinCE wine event – An event that is more consumer focused than trade, but a place to discover new wines and meet new people. I have to admit that I rarely find myself discovering  a wine label, or bottle design, at such events that makes me stop and say, “hey, now that is a great idea!” The wine world is full of copycats and formulaic marketing that usually bores me or fails to reflect the wine that it is supposed to represent. The wine inside a bottle is often either represented by a horrific label with a fancy font and ridiculous food pairing suggestions; or the opposite, by a label that is itself a work of art, meant for a museum, while the juice inside is second rate at best.

This year, one winery did stop me in my tracks to exclaim, “Yes, now that is what I’m talking about!”

Dénes Pécsi-Szabó, a young man from the Janus winery in Villány region of Hungary came up to me after the Gary Vaynerchuck masterclass and asked me to try his wines. Needing a reason to roam around, I found his table in the back corner of one of the main tasting halls, and within minutes I knew it was a good idea. Dénes, having very little time left in the day, quickly showed me his wines and the new labels that he was in the process of switching his wines to. Colorful and patterned I thought nothing of it at first, another pretty label. After tasting one of the wines, I remember noting that at least the pretty label contained some good fruit.

It was at that point that Dénes started to explain the story behind the label and I proceeded to inspect it closer. Turns out the patterns on the label had meaning. I’ll let Dénes explain in his own words how he worked with a designer to create them:

We created them with Marton Kenczler, Art Director of Kirowski Isobar. I used to work with him in film productions, and I wanted to bring a designer to create our logo and labels from an outsider world. Marci…had no knowledge or experience in the wine business.

We thought, that the old label is a little boring, as it was created to try to please all consumers and also family members of Janus Winery. We wanted to do something, which we feel[sic] closer to us, looks nice and sticks out of the Hungarian label crowd…

We both felt that the long label hugging around the bottle is a good form for what we want to do. Then I said one or two words about all of our wines, and Marci reflected with the symbols.

Rosé: Fresh, girly
Portugieser: wine for everyday
Cabernet Sauvignon: royal grape
Cabernet Franc: King of Villány Wine Region
Merlot: soft
Syrah: eastern influence, Big body

Using Icons as the base of the design the two decided that each grape would receive its own, unique icon. Therefore, each wine could reflect what was inside the bottle with a few visual cues. By playing with the quantity of each icon, they could give the consumer an idea of what the final wine might offer.

What’s interesting is that this winery was not only branding grapes, but branding them in a visual way that overcomes language barriers. Combine this with fun, lyrical label messages that play with the character of the grape, leaving out any silly food pairing suggestions, and they’re onto something fun and different.

Now I’m not saying that Janus solved all major problem, or that these are the most innovative label designers and marketers I’ve come across, but they took a risk to think differently. They realized that people do shop by grape, and by relating these to visual cues, can create deeper branding. Additionally, they stepped out of the wine bubble to consult a designer who is able to see their world differently. Objectively.

Yes this is a moot point for the first time wine buyer. They are not going to know the “system” when they first pick up a bottle, but it is the “plastic bull” idea – where the consumer, if they like the wine, has an easier route to brand loyalty [Back in my wine shop, if a buyer couldn’t find a wine for their pizza on friday night, they defaulted to the one with the plastic bull around it’s neck]. These symbols, when first noticed, can create enough curiosity for the casual buyer to connect with them, and possibly seek out new combinations. Beyond that, they represent what is inside visually, and thus go much further than most wine labels who rely on fancy art or funny fonts.

I have yet to taste the full range of Janus wines. This will be remedied soon, but I will say that the couple wines I did taste at the end of a long day were showing great potential. Wines that I would buy, without a doubt.

Wine marketing is a challenge in a sea of copycats. Thinking ‘different’ can be hard to do, but the rewards can be great. Congrats to Janus on their efforts.


Note: This label shown here has a music note icon. This icon has been added as this wine is the official wine of the Pannon Filharmonics Orchestra. In their mind the wines grapes blend with the music so they are shown together.

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Turning Wii into Wine

Wii and Wine

I’m guessing that you’ve heard of the Wii? A large number of you will own one, or someone in your family will. I know mine do – they ALL do in fact. I’m also guessing that until the Wii came out, many of those who now have one would not have said they would be buying a games console.

Did you realise that the Nintendo Wii has almost 50% market share of games consoles around the world? That’s almost 70 MILLION Wii units in houses across the globe. I didn’t. Now, I’m not a gamer, and you probably aren’t either, so WHO CARES?

Answer: Any business who wants to go from nowhere to 50% share in 3 years should care, really!

So what helped to change their minds?

Was it the graphics speed? Was it the control device (wiimote)? Was it the funny name? Was it the design of the console itself that was so desirable? Was it because it loaded faster, or more easily? Was it made by special kinds of robots, or with particular components? Was it because it won all sorts of awards?

I doubt it.

Most importantly, what are the lessons to be learned for wine? Simple. It is about Benefits & Features. Nintendo didn’t just try to steal market share from competitors, they set out to “get new people playing games” [from Wikipedia].

While Sony & Microsoft tried to out-do each other in innovations of features that were important to gamers (graphics, sound, movie tie-ins), Nintendo focused on making their product fit into our lives. Yours and mine.

To this audience, the features of the Wii, or any games console, were immaterial. This audience simply had no reason to want to play games involving shooting zombies or scoring goals.

So was the brilliant thing the Wii did then? They convinced us that it wasn’t a games console, it was a family entertainment tool AND a fitness aid.


They stopped talking about Features and found new Benefits.

I could go on (many gaming sites don’t seem to understand this issue either it seems), but lets get back to wine.

How many times have you read: “Handpicked”, “Careful selection”, “de-stemming”, “french oak”, “tannins”, “fruit”, etc. on a wine label? Pretty much EVERY time. These are FEATURES of the wine, and not only that, they rarely vary from one wine to another.

We (all) happen to have palates that can distinguish minute chemical differences between these wines, which is just as well, because in terms of message, wine brands are virtually indistinguishable from each other.

What could you say about your wine, or the wine in your glass, if you couldn’t talk about ANY features and only mention benefits? Most of us would struggle, because the only benefits we are used to talking about are “being more social” and, ultimately, inebriation.

Wine does not have a ready-made lexicon of terms for the benefits of this product, but it MUST develop one if it is to reach out to consumers and make wine relevant to them. Only the most creative, brave and switched-on brands will have the capacity to drive this forward, and the problem is that these are very few and far-between at the moment.

However, this is not just a money game. What is interesting is that this problem *might* be resolved by throwing lots of money at it; recruiting global advertising agencies, research bodies, copywriters, media buyers and more. It might also be resolved by speaking to consumers and actually asking them what the wine brand means to them, and that is where clever, lucky and energetic wineries with social media strategies can actually benefit.

Who knows if this will happen. I feel strongly that it is something that the wine business needs to resolve. We cannot continue to flog the dead horse of today’s wine messages. We are not reaching the consumer and the business is suffering.

I’m off to play Wii Tennis with my kids and get fit. What about you? Still drinking that stuff made from hand-picked grapes stuffed in wooden barrels for ages? Boring!

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Honest about being Craggy

I was lucky enough to be invited to a tasting of prestige wines held at the marvellous Corrigans restaurant (I was too busy enjoying the food to remember to take any photos, sorry).

Craggy Range Tasting

Craggy Range Tasting

The occasion was a tasting of recent vintages of Craggy Range, one of the exponents of really top class wines from unique terroirs from the new world, in this case New Zealand. Whilst many wine drinkers might think that the concept of single vineyard, terroir-driven wines might be the preserve of the ‘old’ world, this is really not the case. I am seeing more and more of this style of wines reach the UK consumer from places like New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and, of course, California which might finally be starting to make people notice – but will they believe it, and more importantly, pay the difference?

I have not been a great fan of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc recently (I feel that many have lost subtlety and have become hard to drink and enjoy rather than taste) so it was really refreshing to taste some absolutely wonderful crisp, mineral Chardonnays from single vineyards such as Gimblett Gravel, and earthy, dark fruit and herbal Pinot Noirs, such as that from the Calvert vineyards along the famous Felton Road.

What stuck with me was the straight-talking (sometimes achingly frank) style of the winemaker Rod Eastman which was captivating, particularly since it was clearly combined with great wine knowledge. This is exactly the kind of voice I would love to follow online on a blog, or vlog, to educate me about his wines, about this quality of wine, and about his country. Rod was able to give his wines context, which included some critical assessments of particular vintages, grapes and closure decisions (he happens to really hate cork).

You rarely hear brand spokespeople making any such admissions, and it reminds us that as well as being the winemaker, he is still a wine drinker himself, and therefore “one of us” – and someone we can trust. In fact many of those whose views I trust most have managed to combine a professional view with an honest, personal opinion too.

At this time Craggy Range are not active in social media, but I know it is on their agenda (is it not on everyone’s yet?) and I look forward to learning a lot more about the unique terroirs and regions of New Zealand from them one day soon, and I hope the winemakers’ views feature clearly on whatever they do.

Thank you to Warren Adamson for arranging for me to attend.

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No charge

Here’s an idea for wine brands – it’s free, or should I say “there is no charge attached”

As the BBC pointed out yesterday, people in Britain consider Broadband at home “essential”, like water or electricity. I agree. I’d also add, that the next move will be to demand it outside the home too, so they can continue their daily business – work, shopping and conversations, on their mobile devices.

There are more and more hotels, bars and restaurants are offering Wi-Fi (although hotels try to charge for it which is just wrong!) which is a great idea – although few are using this properly to their advantage (I’ll post on that as well soon). But as this becomes more common, it will lose its power to impress. Once it is expected, it will only be an issue if it is NOT available.

What no-one has yet done in the restaurant trade (to my knowledge) is address a major shortcoming of all this mobile interaction – access to POWER. CHARGE. ELECTRICITY.

A customer could easily walk into a bar with any combination of laptop, iPod, mobile phone, camera or games console. Want to be their friend for ever? Offer them access to power points (or should I say sockets). The clever bar manager will also have a set of chargers for the most common tools & brands (iPhone, Blackberry, Nokia, PSP, etc.) available which customers can borrow FREE.

There have been many times I could have been sharing my experiences of the food, wine, and the location but I couldn’t for fear of running out of battery (in my vocabulary for obvious reasons this is now called “twitter juice“). You should have seen the look I got when I asked recently if they happened to have a charger.

If you are a wine brand with ANY form of online presence, why not brand these tools and make them available instead of just sending out more ice-buckets or menu covers?

I’ve even got a name for the branding campaign – “No Charge”

Just a thought. If you do something like this, let me know!

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The Beer Conversation

I hope you will indulge me and allow me to change the regular subject away from wine for a short while.

The subject today is beer. To be specific, it is Stella Artois and their marketing and PR activities. THIS is what I was inspired by!

I did not set out to think about beer marketing, but I had been trying to get along to a regular London Bloggers get-together for many months and I had failed 7 times already (that’s almost a year of events) so I made a special effort for the summer party.

To help celebrate the event, Stella Artois made the brave, and far-sighted in my opinion, decision to sponsor the event. Not only did they pay for drinks, but they also offered a quite unique prize – a trip for up to 6 bloggers in their Star Over London airship (or zeppelin) as seen above. Each of these seats cost up to £360, so it was no small prize!

Stella Artois managed to tie in this prize to their sponsorship of “Love Your Local“, a campaign they are supporting to highlight pubs that are at the heart of their community. To win the bloggers’ prize we had to describe what we liked about our favourite local. I happen to have a great local pub (The Honor Oak), so it was no effort to write about them – and it so happens that I won one of the prizes.

[You can see my pictures here]

I also discovered that, as well as their long-standing and well regarded television commercials, they have a new interactive site with a game and other goodies (not sure about the game – it looks wonderful, but is it a game or a movie?) that includes a great collection and presentation of their adverts (I think these are the cinema-length versions).

It is a sign of a good campaign that you can conduct several different activities but still manage to tie them together, keeping the brand profile high.

Stella Artois emerges as a well recognised brand that cleverly manages to sell itself as a “premium” brand whilst still managing to compete on the mass market in pubs and supermarkets (i.e. it still discounts!). As far as wine is concerned, only champagne has managed to achieve this.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see a similar branding concept in the wine business?

There are many reasons you won’t see a wine brand pay to brand a zeppelin or shoot some of the most beautiful cinematic ads, chief of which is that none can afford it, but the impressive link up between the promotions, and the single-minded (although no longer “Reassuringly Expensive”) and cleverly humorous presentation is something that would be wonderful to see.

[I ought to point out that Stella Artois is not immune from criticism either, with regard to its branding, but I don’t think it negates the point that wine brands who want to succeed, as well as surviving for somewhere between 82 and 642 years, can learn from this sort of consistent branding]