I went shopping for a bottle of wine last night at our local grocery store. Even with my more-than-the-average-Joe knowledge of the industry, I found the experience to be overwhelming. That anyone would walk in to a wine section and pick any one bottle of Kiona wine is sometimes mind boggling to me, especially with the ubiquity of some of the larger, high quality brands that we compete against. They’re good, they’re competitively priced, and they’re easy to find.
The front label, as far as I see it, is the “grab.” Of the hundreds (if not thousands) of options, the front label has to make a consumer reach out and grab the bottle. It’s the book cover or album artwork of my world. A person shopping for wine might reach out and inspect a dozen (or more!) bottles before making a selection. I have my own idea of what constitutes a beautiful label. I’m sure it would be easy to find someone who vehemently disagreed with my aesthetic preferences. Front labels are important, without a doubt. But what I’m trying to analyze the single element that makes a person stick the bottle in their cart. If someone picks up and inspects 11 bottles of wine because of beautiful front labels, what makes them choose the 12th?
Is it a thoughtful shelf talker? A pairing suggestion? Recommendation from the steward or shop owner? Placement on the shelf? Familiarity with the winery or region? I’d like to think it’s a combination of things. It’s the magic moment. If I knew the answer I would probably be on a yacht somewhere. But I have my guesses, and today I’m going to focus on back label text.
Here are the rules that I have put together for my own point of sale marketing. Please keep in mind that I would be the first to tell you that my own labels aren’t perfect, and I flat-out break these rules sometimes. I’m working on refining our packaging, and what you see now on a bottle of our wine is the result of a decision I made months, if not years ago.
What’s the message? - Why should someone buy my wine? There are thousands of choices, why is mine the right one? Easier said than done, in my experience.
Okay, convey that message quickly - What’s the 7-second elevator pitch? I have struggled with this for our own winery. A lot of our current wines have two whole paragraphs on the back label. Two paragraphs! I was delusional to believe that anyone in their right mind would stand staring at 2mm type on a back label for any more than 10 seconds, much less two paragraphs. I’ve gotta be concise.
Don’t be boring - Most wines have labels that use terms like “award-winning,” “hand-crafted,” “passion,” or “world-class,” among others. BORING! If another winery could copy and paste what’s on my label and use it on theirs, I’m doing something wrong. I would also put stuffy verbiage in this category. Conveying quality is different than being a stuck-up snob.
Adhere to the rules - There are an unbelievable number of rules that we have to follow to get a label approved by the federal government. Placement and size of alcohol content, rules governing classifications and portrayal of appellations, varietals, and blends, and inclusion of warnings and producer’s statements are just the tip of the iceberg. It’s a real downer when you spend days crafting the perfect 30 words for the back label and then it gets rejected because of someone’s interpretation of an obscure rule.
So with all of that being said, here is a snippet from the label of an upcoming 100-case production. I learned long ago that soliciting opinions on label text and design is a bad idea, and that’s not what I’m doing. I’m hoping to illustrate my latest attempt to adhere to my rules.
I labored over these 31 words for weeks to strike the right balance between content (conveying that we are a family winery that grows our own grapes), brevity (three lines), and intrigue (conveys age of operation, conveys a ‘first’, and sells the region instead of the specific wine).
The sweetness scale should give the consumer an idea of what to expect in the bottle without including a lengthy dissertation on the flavors they ought to taste, and the “Grown, Produced, and Bottled” terminology drives home that it’s a product we made from start to finish.
The goal here was to be interesting and honest without hyperbole. Hopefully I was successful. Maybe these 31 words will make someone put the bottle in their cart instead of back on the shelf.