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Tuesday, 8 June 2021

On Wine And Branding

Creating labels/packaging for your wine that says BUY ME
By Richard Horwell, Brand Relations

Let me start with a bold statement. Your branding is as important as the product itself. You can have the best tasting wine on the market but if no one picks it up and tries it, no one will ever know, 90% of a first-time purchase is based on the branding; it’s why a consumer will pick your product over their regular choice or your competition.

But don’t confuse design with branding, as many agencies do. Branding is the message you want to give your target consumer - and that message on your packaging should be ‘BUY ME’.


In developing any product, including a wine brand, the starting point is asking a LOT of questions. These questions will be much the same as the ones your target audience will ask. For example: ‘what is unique about this product?’; ‘why is it better than the competition’; ‘should I risk spending money on this untried brand?’; ’does this product offer value for money?’ Your branding needs to answer all these questions.

The MOST expensive word in the Food & Drink category is ‘education’, if you need to take time to educate the consumer, away from the packaging, then you will either spend millions or fail, or both.

The best place to educate your target audience is on your wine’s label and other packaging, so your branding needs to be clear and perfect.

That’s what the branding is for; to provide instant education.

Link to what your audience already understands

We all tend to Pigeonhole everything in our lives and whether we are conscious of it or not, when we see a new brand, we put it in its place. So, if you are attempting to break new ground – perhaps with a mixed product including wine - then you need to add something to the mix that the consumer knows.

To take one related example to illustrate this point, we have just developed a drink based on the Stinging Nettle called Emunity, so to help consumers to reach out and try this we have added ingredients and flavours they recognise, like gooseberry, cucumber and wild strawberry.

The key is to make sure the messaging is easy to understand and include elements that consumers can understand instantly, which helps then to choose your product fast.

Ask Questions

In order to get your branding right, you need to ask yourself and others some questions:

1/ Where will this wine sell and what brands will sit alongside it? How will my product stand out against them?

2/ What is my brand message? For example, is it based on spoiling yourself or great taste?

3/ Will my consumer be able to read the messages I have on the label from a distance, without picking it up?

4/ Does my brand look premium enough for the selling price?

5/ Why should a consumer buy my brand instead of their regular choice?

Getting the answers to these questions is the first step to creating brilliant branding and perfect labels/packaging.

It’s about them, not you

When I lived in Australia, I knew a very successful businessman who could turn his hand to anything. When I asked him his secret to success, his response was ‘when you explain something to someone and they don’t understand, it’s not them that’s stupid, it’s you for not explaining it properly’. This is the same with branding for wine, just putting your brand name on the front and thinking the brand will sell is crazy, Consumers don’t care about a ‘new’ brand name, they care about what’s in it for them.

So, make sure your message conveys this. Always focus on them, not you.

Point of Difference

In order to have any chance of success in today’s market you must have a point of difference. This needs to be very clear in your branding and messaging on the packaging. Just being vegan wine, for example, is not enough - there are masses of vegan brands now, and when it comes to drinks most of them are already vegan.

What makes your brand different? The MOST important points of difference should highlight on the packaging. The less important ones still need to be on there, but they can go on areas the consumer will read once they pick the product up.

Be wary of minimalism

Minimalism has become a trend in recent years with many designs jumping on the bandwagon. However, be careful not to make it too minimal. I have seen some laughable branding where a designer has tried to be cool but forgotten about selling the brand. This has led to the consumer ignoring it completely and reaching for the safer option, in other words, one of the established wine brands they already know. Find the right balance between doing too much or too little. You also don’t want to waffle; let your branding do the talking.

Your Values

Consumers want brands to be transparent and they want to understand the brand’s heritage and values. The history and tradition of the wine region is clearly important. Also is the product certified to be Vegan, Fairtrade or Organic? Which of these will resonate with your target audience? More recently consumers are looking for certifications like ‘B Corporation’, which commends businesses that give as much consideration to their social and environmental impact as they do to their financial returns.

This move towards wanting to buy from companies with matching values is an opportunity for new, indie brands as the established companies can’t adapt quickly. It takes time to remove artificial ingredients and replace them with natural ones, to change supply chains to Fairtrade or a more ethical source or create a business that cares about the environment and its impact on our future. This is what today’s consumers are looking for and this is what your branding should communicate about your wine business.


Your packaging needs to communicate your brand so that your target consumer back that vital initial purchase. It should also say ‘buy ME’ in a way that they simply cannot ignore!


Richard Horwell is the owner of Brand Relations, a specialist food and drink marketing and branding company based in London. Over the last 13 years, Brand Relations has been behind the launch and development of over 100 brands in the UK. Richard has also built up and sold companies of his own in the Food and Beverage sector. He has over 30 years’ experience in marketing FMCG brands around the world, having lived and worked in the UK, USA, Australia and the Middle East.

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