Wine Buyers Judge Bottles by Their Labels—How Can Brands Stand Out?

Wine Buyers Judge Bottles by Their Labels—How Can Brands Stand Out?

From Champagne to Chardonnay to Cabernet, wine shelves have something to appeal to almost every palate. For discerning consumers, there are options aplenty for any occasion. But for brands, the category is crowded, and standing out is difficult. In fact, in 2014, 4,200 new wines were introduced to market, representing 12.5% of category items.

Unlike other beverage alcohol categories, advertising for wine is low. In 2014, media spend for wine brands was only 7% of that for beer. As a result, wine relies heavily on the “advertising” that happens at shelf, which can be a pretty powerful incentive. With 64% of consumers trying a new product simply because the package catches their eye, package design is one of the most underappreciated marketing levers.

In a recent study, Nielsen evaluated package designs for 34 select top-selling and up-and-coming wines amongst 2,700 U.S. consumers, highlighting brands that are using design effectively to win at shelf. Understanding what’s catching consumers’ eyes at the shelf—and driving them to the register—can help wine brands and design agencies develop packaging that grabs attention, drives consumer preference and builds brand equity.

In such a crowded category as wine, bottles only have a few seconds to grab consumers’ attention before the opportunity is lost. Crafting a label that catches consumers’ eyes quickly is key. In the study, the most visible bottles were seen by up to 77% more consumers than the least visible bottles, as determined by eye-tracking technology. Additionally, some bottles held consumers’ attention by up to 2.5x longer than others.

So what’s grabbing shoppers’ attention?

It turns out it varies by price. For wines under $20, bottles with brightly colored (e.g., red, orange, gold, etc.) labels and capsules tended to grab consumers’ attention best. In the over $20 price tier, which generally gravitates toward a more traditional aesthetic, bottles with a bold or contrarian look stood out.

Labels that are distinctive have also found success—though what is considered “distinctive” varies by price as well. For example, package designs for wines in lower price tiers often aim to appear approachable and easy to discern. Some brands in these price tiers have won over consumers with bottles that are dark, classy and sleek, giving them a seemingly premium bottle at a less-than-premium price. Wines over $20 typically adhere to more traditional aesthetics such as neutral color schemes and classic typefaces, creating an opportunity for brands to push the limits with disruptive package designs.

In fact, there are whitespace opportunities at every price tier for brands looking to pack more personality. Many dimensions of brand personality remain unclaimed or weakly held by the leading wines included the study, creating differentiation opportunities for other brands.

Additionally, age is a factor. Relative to older generations, Millennials prefer more adventurous and fun bottle designs. For wines over $10, Millennials expressed more preference than older generations for bottle designs that are bold and distinctive, with no notable gender differences. On the other hand, more traditional designs tended to fare better with Gen Xers and Boomers.

Despite the saturation of competitors in the wine industry, there are still plenty of opportunities for brands to catch consumers’ eyes and win their hearts. However, understanding what shoppers are looking for at each price, what whitespace opportunities exist in each pricing tier and how different ages are making their purchase decisions are essential to attracting buyers.

For more information about this study, download the full report