L&A’s creative director, Barbara Phillips-Barrett, recently judged a wine packaging competition. After years as both a grower and package designer in the Napa Valley, this was a fun and informative experience! Whatever product you’re packaging we discovered a number of trends (and hazards) to watch out for as you go through the packaging process.
1. Tell people what’s in the package and why to buy it. Communicate your excitement about your product. Put the varietal and the source on the front label plus as much information as you can fit on the back. This is not the time to save paper—tell the consumer what the blend is and consider using a map to show location.
There’s a trend in wine packaging to put as little information as possible on the package to portray the wine as elegant and exclusive. Even wines sold by the winemaker directly to the customer, once it’s cellared, will need pertinent information on the bottle.
2. Use all package elements to give a uniform message. This includes the structure, logo, illustration, image and the marketing text. Space is valuable, so use ‘romance copy’ only if it enhances your message and be sure front and back work together to thoroughly communicate it.
Begin your packaging process by identifying what you want to communicate. As you go along compare the concepts you receive from your team back to those points. If something isn’t right, fix it. No package element is insignificant and they all must work together to tell a cohesive story.
3. Consider a unique package structure. There are many new attention-getting package types entering the category, use them to your advantage. And use the opportunity to tie a new structure into your messaging. Tell the consumer why you used it and why you think it’s great!
When using an unusual shape, consider the space in which your package will be sold, and stored. Be sure your bottle shape is not too short or wide to be placed on traditional racks. If it is, it may limit your retail sales and irritate collectors.
One package in the competition was beautiful and the structure was eye-catching though unfamiliar. There was no information on how to get into it and it literally took the judges an hour to figure it out. It’s always a good idea to do at least an informal focus test to highlight potential problems such as this.
4. Don’t overreach. There is a tendency in the wine industry to make products look high-end. This strategy can lead to problems with tiers and pricing. The biggest problem is when your product doesn’t deliver to the level of your packaging. You’ll have disappointed customers and your brand is weakened.
One of the strongest packaging examples in the competition was for a series of $7 wines. The design was current and upbeat, easily communicated a lot of information and didn’t try to be something it wasn’t. The lesson here is to be authentic to your brand. In the long run it’s the best strategy.
5. Don’t go negative. I saw several packages that used negative naming and graphics to separate themselves from the pack. In more than one case the product name and graphics were positively offensive. The danger of this strategy is the long-term effect it can have on your brand. Don’t risk offending your audience!
At the end of a day of reviewing some of the best wine packaging in the industry, there were clearly those that stood out from the pack and were outstanding. Each winner used all of their communication toolkit beautifully including package structure, text and graphics. The pièce de résistance was that each winner entertained the judges, which means these packages will do the same on shelf and receive that extra time needed to turn a prospective customer into an actual customer.