Wine packaging was designed and perfected for the retail shelf display. So what happens when retail display doesn’t matter quite as much as it used to — and could matter a whole lot less in the future?
“Ecommerce, which means ecommerce packaging, is going to be more and more important,” says digital marketer Shana Bull, one of the speakers at the upcoming PackXplore Conference. “It’s just not enough any more to ship wine in a brown box with a sales sheet. What can you do to bring emotion and excitement to that packaging?”
Marketers and retailers will tell you that a wine bottle sitting on the shelf may no longer be enough to sell the bottle, let alone the brand. Rather, wine producers and marketers need to approach packaging, whether traditional or for ecommerce, the way other CPG (consumer packaged goods) brands do, be they laundry detergent or ketchup.
“I have a lot of things to say about this,” says Annie Barrow, who owns ABC Wine Company in Manhattan’s East Village, who then explains that many traditional visual devices are no longer sending the right message. “Some wine brands still [think they] need a castle on the label,” she says. But, when faced with a choice based on label alone, “the customer walks right past it.”
Wine packaging needs to adapt in a variety of areas, say the experts, and it’s much more than the continual debate about the future of the 750 mL bottle, rehashing critter labels, or the next knockoff of The Prisoner:
- The ecommerce package. Search YouTube for unboxing videos, and there are literally millions — for computers, cell phones, cosmetics, and the like. But wine? Not really. What’s there to see besides a brown box and a bottle of wine? “Wineries need to think like ecommerce merchants,” says Bull. “They have to make unboxing fun” to add value to the product. That means anything from tissue paper wrappings to clever inserts to winery-branded boxes. It’s a question of ROI that not enough producers consider, yet the extra expense may well be worth the effort in increasing customer loyalty.
- The packing materials. “If you’re still using polystyrene or those peanuts, you might as well shoot yourself,” says Michael Wangbickler, the president of Balzac Communications & Marketing in Napa. “Younger consumers judge a brand by packaging. To them, packaging is much more than what it looks like. It has multiple parts: the package’s carbon footprint and what the shipping inserts are made of, for instance. They’re going to judge you if you don’t use pulp shippers.”
- Matching the label to the wine. One size does not fit all anymore – if it ever did. “Younger winemaker wines need to reflect that on the label,” says Barrow. “The label needs to look more cool. There’s nothing wrong with an old school label, as long as it’s an old school wine. And where it’s from matters, too. A wine from Bordeaux needs a more sophisticated label; a wine from Languedoc needs a more fun label.”
- Popping off the shelf. This, says Barrow, is one of the biggest problems she faces in selecting wine for her shop. “I can’t tell you how many wines I’ve passed on because the wine was great, but the label was so bad that customers would walk right past it,” she says. “The label is definitely a huge criteria in whether I choose to bring a wine in. The label needs to be interesting, since the consumer is going to buy with their eyes first.”
Join the packaging trends discussion at PackXplore: The Intersection of Engagement, Innovation, Design, & Sustainability in Wine Packaging, which takes place May 25 in Santa Rosa, Calif.
Jeff Siegel is an award-winning wine writer, as well as the co-founder and former president of Drink Local Wine, the first locavore wine movement. He has taught wine, beer, spirits, and beverage management at El Centro College and the Cordon Bleu in Dallas. He has written seven books, including “The Wine Curmudgeon’s Guide to Cheap Wine.”