It’s the sheer choice of course – there is so much variety. In the off trade, one can be presented with hundreds of bottles, from every part of the world, displaying their labels which feature unusual regions, varietals, names, designs, art, and colours.

It’s a heady introduction to the elixir of the Gods. A drink that has enchanted mankind for centuries with its complex flavours, rich history, and impressive ability to transcend the boundaries of time, nature and culture.

Whether you are pro, aficionado, connoisseur, hobbyist, or mild enthusiast, wine offers a marvellously wide stage for self-expression and enjoyment. (And of course, for the sheer intoxicated pleasure of it!)

But it’s also for the curious, the adventurous, those who want to explore different tastes, learn about different countries, arts/cultures, histories, geographies, creativity, cuisines. And, for deep divers, it’s addresses wider socio-cultural issues such as sustainable environmental innovation, the strength of family, of generational passing down, the rhythms of nature, economic power and the importance of local community.

Whatever makes your heart sing, wine has fascinating, important, brand stories to tell.

Brand break through is hard

But wherever you see it – on shelves, at the pub, in the restaurant – it is tough for wineries to establish a distinct brand. Wine brands remain much smaller than their equivalents in the beer, soft drinks and spirits industries. There's no Red Bull, Heineken, Innocent or Coca-Cola.

Some of the reasons for this include the fragmented seasonal realities of production, which sadly now includes climate change events like fires. Wine is an agricultural product, subject to the vagaries of nature.

(Image with thanks to Esporao: importance of verticality at Quinta dos Murcas)

However, the desire for deliciously tasting quality wine keeps on keeping on. It has increased in the UK. The on and off trade markets have significantly matured. Consumers are more knowledgeable – many are actively seeking taste notes, country, varietal and production information – and the trade are supportive of new wines off the beaten track with interesting backstories and provenances. But it is still hard for a wine to cut through, and for the established ones to remain relevant.

To many ‘brand’ means something different in wine.  Smaller, sometimes less aware makers may think an attractive wine brand label and wine brand name does the job. Regrettably, though both are hard to do well, they do not in themselves constitute a wine ‘brand’ in the long- term, robust, added value sense of the word.

Because that’s what we’re after - a wine brand that can becomethe most valuable piece of real estate in the world: a corner of someone’s mind."  As ad legend and winemaker, John Hegarty put it.

New consumers, new tastes

It does not need to be so complex. At the premium/high-end – as with other luxury products – wine has historically, and intentionally, made itself mysterious, a closed world. Because mystique, jargon, private language, histories, and codes mean exclusivity, specialness, knowledge, and helps justify a price premium. And these wines still have their glorious place in the world.

But younger drinkers are changing things – which is healthy. Much innovative wine brand marketing is happening there. Companies are making wine more accessible, less pretentious, and less ‘stuffy’.  Three good examples can be seen here in the work done for our clients: Estandon, Hatch Mansfield’s Wild Steps, and Derrick Neleman.

It is a comprehensive process spanning market research, brand strategy, name generation, brand narrative and messaging and - working with Studio Parr, our design partner specialists in drinks brand identity, & packaging design - visual identity, and logo design.

How we build successful wine brands

(Image credit: Larry W Koester/ Flickr)

What product has celebrity endorsements like this:

"Wine cheers the sad, revives the old, inspires the young, makes weariness forget his toil" (Lord Byron)

Now that’s what I call an endline. (Quotes from famous wine lovers are numerous and all heartwarming).

So, we are not short of factual and indeed psychological brand building material here.

The challenge is that the stories - origination, production, expertise, authenticity, sustainable nature, regional culture, terroir, varietals and passion - are becoming well-trodden wine brand marketing strategies. I might add these are all strong, sincere, necessary themes and have to be told.

But it’s how we say them, show them, and present them that exercises us. How we dig deeper to create competitively powerful, compelling, emotional, and of course rational, narratives with the most effective values and imagery to stimulate awareness/interest/trial/appeal.

Wine brand marketing - our approach

1. Define the strategic objective

‘Wine brand’ tends to be emotive in wine marketing since there are many interpretations of what the term means. We think any brand that successfully engenders some level of positive emotional resonance with its customers might be said to be ‘good’ , but the very best brands manage to appeal widely without undermining their value or diluting their story.

2. Understand the business objectives

Like any other marketing brief, the commercial background is vital e.g. the current strategy if it has one, its relationship if there is one, to a master brand or wine maker, or portfolio etc. We want to know the maker’s vision for the wine, its purpose, the makers themselves (family/cooperative etc) , the founder story, the competition, tasting notes, vineyards’ location, surroundings, points of natural importance, sustainability policy/practise and the copy/visual relationship plus of course commercial factors such as potential audience, distribution strategy, drinking occasions…

3. A brand strategy

Identifying a winning positioning. Like any other brand, our drinks brand strategy work employs best practice methodology. We use a ‘Brand Circle’ Framework of ‘Why, How, What, Who’, defining positioning, tone, key messaging/proposition and implications for naming and creative direction of which the first expression tends to be the label.

4. The label

Usually the first exposure to the brand and plays a significant role in creating an identity for the wine. Given the multitudes of wines out there, each one clearly requires its own character yet must be seen as part of a similar group if it is to be successful. Few wines are so noteworthy that they can stand alone. Many people choose wine simply by the appearance of the label i.e., the graphic design and the name. Almost like buying old vinyl records by the cover, (Jazz lovers, think Blue Note).

The name, the graphics and all the important choices that support the brand’s premium offer – from the bottle shape (off the shelf or bespoke), paper stock selection, print and production techniques (from foils to embossing to textured can printing) to capsule and closure choice - do all the heavy lifting of creating an aesthetic promise of facts and desire.

Names and designs are disciplines like any other brand marketing communications work. Both are specialist skills. See here for more on our approach to name creation. And here for our blog on wine label design.

5. Create the brand story/ narrative

These have become an accepted, important, marketing tool. From product to politician to pop star to painter to the (pricey) local artisan coffee shop round the corner.

Everyone’s thinking about story arcs.

But having a story helps build brand identities; it enables brands to connect, express personality, and communicate core values.

The best stories celebrate craftsmanship, love of place, intellectual rigour, creativity and reflect winemakers’ constant quest for their brand’s truth and beauty.

An excellent example is this ‘Slow Forward’ story by our client Esporão:

6. Respect winemakers' passion

Passion – like ‘luxury’ – is a much over-used word especially in brand marketing. But little else exists to convey winemakers’ seriously intense energy, enthusiasm, expertise, hard work, obsession, respect for nature, the importance of community, family, and the ceaseless search to produce quality. We happen to like the humility of Harlan Estate:

"If we can enrich people's lives, and just maybe inspire them to do something beyond what they might otherwise have done, that brings us great satisfaction. Our purpose is to help our patrons to have an even more enjoyable and healthy life." (H. William Harlan)

7. Great wine brands need great distribution

Brand names and label designs aren’t enough. It’s not just about the drinks marketing brand agency. We know our place in the food chain. Producing high-quality wine only makes sense if it can reach the right people. Brands need the right buyer to make it to the market. For that you need to have a great relationship with a distributor; they are a vital part of brand building.

One of the very best is our client Hatch Mansfield.

Lastly of course, Number 8. Marketing. It is too big a subject to go into here, but we will be addressing it in a follow up piece.


So here's to developing successful drinks brands

Anew are brand development and marketing specialists for ambitious businesses of excellence. We help companies increase brand profitability through sharper insights, distinctive propositions, creative ideas and faultless execution. We are particularly adept at working directly with luxury brands, business owners, start-ups and entrepreneurs who are committed to sustainability, outstanding quality and craft.

You can read more about us here including our drinks experience and that of our close creative associates Studio Parr, the award-winning design studio specialising in premium drinks.

Studio Parr’s impressive wine, spirits and other alcoholic drinks labelling and packaging experience includes: Langham Wine Estate, Everflyht, Benchmark Drinks, Kylie Minogue Wines, Marques De Riscal, Albourne Estate, Hoffmann & Rathbone, Majestic Wines, Marks & Spencer, Chivas, Beefeater, Hayman Distillers, Talisker, Estandon, Hatch Mansfield, Neleman, Ehrmanns, Poynings Grange, Johnnie Walker, Jack Daniels, Stolichnya, Adnams, Siren Craft Brew, Tiger beer, Carlsberg, Heineken, Diageo/Guinness.

To get in touch do drop us an email. We'd be delighted to meet for a coffee, either face-to-face or virtually to discuss your brief.

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