Contemporary labels – exciting or scary

Let’s be honest. The market is full of wine & spirits packages that are safe and familiar. Clearly, there is more opportunity to stand out if we break the traditional label rules. After all, disrupting consumer expectations can get them to stop and pay attention. When is a modern design approach the right fit?

Our choice of design approach flows from the consumer’s motivation. Age group, usage occasion and category familiarity all influence their selection. If they are looking for a bottle to share with someone they want to impress, or if they are unfamiliar with the category, they may turn to traditional labels as a safe choice. However, modern may feel like the best fit for:

•  Consumers seeking a beverage for everyday relaxation
•  Millennials seeking fun
•  Urban sophisticates looking for understated luxury

Modern = Simplicity and No-nonsense, Everyday Quality

I think it’s safe to say consumers have embraced fresh, new design in the lower price range. They buy imported olive oil at Costco, designer clothing from Target, and they don’t believe they need to pay high prices to get good quality alcohol beverages. From the Target Wine Cube to Skinnygirl cocktails –consumers seeking an everyday value are buying brands that have abandoned traditional messaging and positioned themselves as an uncomplicated adult beverage that fits their lifestyle. They want to make an easy purchase without having to decipher mysterious codes about heritage or provenance. Wine is seen as a beverage for unwinding with after work or enhancing a weeknight dinner. Premixed cocktails keep casual entertaining simple. Here, modernism communicates ease, accessibility and permission to relax.

Modernism Expresses My Fun & Sassy Side

“My friends like Cosmos. I like Chardonnay. I don’t want to look old fashioned and stodgy when I drink. Playful branding fits my self-image.”

Approachable, contemporary designs that convey whimsy and fun are a great fit for younger consumers and adventurous boomers seeking social connection. From book club to barbecues – wine brands that use sophisticated irreverence to poke fun at the traditional wine “establishment” keep things light. Think Big House or Middle Sister. Here, the look and the concept together give the consumer permission to drink wine on non-serious occasions. The appeal of an insider joke lets consumers show their sassy side; witty references are a way to express a sophisticated flouting of “the rules.” Playful, contemporary illustrations help consumers express their modern style.

A pared-down aesthetic = modern luxury

Though we still see fewer traditional labels at the high end of the market, a pared down, understated modern approach can convey urban sophistication and offer status-conscious consumers a chance to express their modern sensibility. These brands look to other luxury categories such as fashion and perfume to borrow minimalist visual language that says, “I have money and the confidence to buy modern understatement.” Good examples of this are J Sparkling Wine and Diamond Vodka.

Branding is about triggering an emotional response that motivates purchase. We must start the design process by figuring out what our brand represents to consumers. If an insecure consumer is looking for safety through trusted and familiar quality cues, we’re better off giving them at least one or two traditional design elements to reassure them. The new generation of consumers, however, is more design-aware and adventurous than their parents. Their emotional triggers are rebellion, self-expression, accessibility, fun, and simplicity. And more and more, consumers of all age groups are letting down their guard and joining in the fun. Once we let go of the traditional label cues, we are free to find new ways to engage these consumers.



Sick of hearing about creating the next “Cupcake” brand? Let’s look instead at what Cupcake has taught us about how consumers feel about wine and spirits today. They like approachable flavor profiles, they want a “treat,” and they don’t think wine has to be too serious. The next big idea is out there waiting to be uncovered. First, we must reach beyond our comfort zone with an open mind and play. Then, we can evaluate our crazy ideas against our core objectives. We just might surprise ourselves – and our competitors.

Yes, There’s an App for That:
A good brainstorming process keeps us focused on the goal while encouraging weirdness and fun – essential ingredients for generating breakthrough concepts. This free brainstorming app is the next best thing to a great live facilitator. I’m downloading it right now: Check it out here.

What’s the real point of the design exercise?
Modern or traditional, we want our brand to inspire evangelism by triggering consumers’ emotional motivations. I thought this article summed it up nicely.

Where do you think modern design fits into our category? We want to hear from you!

Drop us your comments on this issue, topic requests and anything else on your mind:

Contemporary labels – exciting or scarySterling Creativeworks

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