How do you choose wine? Do you stick to a trusted name and never stray? Do you opt for wine from local vineyards? Or do you show up in the store aisle and pick whatever grabs your attention?
Darcen Esau was a master’s candidate at the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus who conducted research on the branding and design of wine labels. His research was published last year in a CBC report. The gist: people want wine that matches their personal identity.
Esau conducted experiments to see if a wine’s label had any influence over a consumer’s choice. He tested wine labels that fit into four categories: personality, design type, narrative and conveyance of luxury. He found it wasn’t as simple as gravitating to the most luxurious brand of wine. “Regardless of what wine was in the glass, if somebody identified with the label they thought the wine tasted better,” Esau told the CBC. He noted that a label’s appeal, and thus the perception of how it tastes, has more to do with branding than if it appears expensive or not.
“People gravitated toward labels that matched their identities.”
So what does this mean for vineyards, or anyone who sells directly to consumers? Different designs appeal to different people, and there is no one design that will appeal to all. You don’t have to stick to classic designs, but your brand does matter. Sometimes it pays to stand out with a unique label in a wine market that’s saturated with thousands of products. As Esau’s research found, some consumers will judge a wine by its label.
In the spring of 2020, Sustainable Winegrowing B.C. (SWBC) will allow vineyards and wineries in the province to participate in a third-party audit and certification process that will brand their products as “certified sustainable.” For consumers who identify “sustainability” as part of their personal identities, this label will speak to them. But it’s more than just a label: there is some teeth involved. Participating vineyards and wineries will have to meet certain sustainability goals that include everything from water and energy efficiency to social equity.
Nowadays it’s easy to slap a label on a product to appeal to a consumer, but it’s important – for our industry and for consumers – that there’s something beyond the label that is tied to action.
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