Cross-Pollinate from Fashion, Fragrance and Music for Inspired Wine & Spirits Branding

There are lots of places to look for inspiration – from your key competitor, to the majestic outdoors. But looking to our own shelf set as our sole reference leads to stagnation, and while a beautiful sunset may lift our mood it is unlikely to spark a relevant branding idea. Where can we turn for a fresh perspective that is also applicable?

Fashion, fragrance and music are closely aligned with wine and spirits because they fill the same emotional needs for consumers: prestige, mystique, escape, rebellion and the elevation of everyday experience. Lessons from these categories can be directly applied to our packaging and product development efforts.


Fashion triggers consumers’ emotional need for prestige, elevation of the every day and their desire for acceptance. Fashion marketers are wizards when it comes to making us desire something we don’t need. And, they convince us to spend more – sometimes much more – to get the “right” thing. As in wine, there are fashion shoppers willing and able to buy a high-end label, and those who buy accessible togs at Target.

What can we learn? The fashion industry predicts the latest consumer tastes and mood, diligently seeking out trendsetters and publishing forecasts. We can look to the runway to tell us what is resonating now: nostalgia or edginess, rebellion or safety, frivolity or timelessness. Watch blogs like the Sartorialist or pick up a magazine to keep your finger on the pulse.

One caution – if you want to build a brand that has longevity, don’t chase the latest fad. But do watch macro-trends to ensure that your messaging and stylistic choices feel relevant and capture today’s consumer imagination. A little current styling goes a long way toward dusting off a tired mature brand. Fedora anyone?


Perfume bottlesFragrance transports us, adding mystique and romance to our lives. There’s ritual involved, and in that ritual a promise of an elevated experience. And oh, those gorgeous little bottles. A trip to the fragrance counter makes us think, “How much does that liquid cost per ounce? Ah well, I’m worth it.”

Perfume and cologne trigger the same fascination and desire as a single malt Scotch or a fine Champagne. All supported by exquisite packaging. What can we learn? Glass shapes, branding, label design and decoration technique in the fragrance category provide a fresh infusion of inspiration that translates quite directly into alcohol beverage brands. Hit your nearest Bloomingdales to see the latest, but leave your credit card at home. Not that you aren’t worth it…


Music inspires fascination and creates community. It delivers a complex, intangible experience to the listener, yet the visual branding that draws us in and communicates the essence of that musical experience is as concise and eye-catching as a great wine label. There may be few categories that are as fragmented and competitive as alcohol beverage, but music is, undeniably, one.

What can we glean? The music industry’s use of imagery, typography and graphic elements is distilled down to essentials, but speaks volumes. It uses symbolism to visually convey ideas, and through evocative imagery it creates differentiation. What music does your consumer identify with, and what is the visual language of that music? Figure out what the emotional triggers are for your wine or spirits brand and look at the visual language of the parallel musical genres. Look past the sexy portraits of big stars to illustrated ‘album covers.’ From CD’s to iTunes, there is a wealth of ideas for how to communicate complexity in a very distilled, yet emotionally evocative way.


Don’t ignore what is happening in wine in spirits when you’re developing your brand vision. However, do cross-pollinate from other categories that fulfill similar emotional needs for consumers. The marketing and design approaches used by fashion, fragrance and music to engage and galvanize consumers offer us fresh fuel for the creative fire. All that inspiration, without the temptation to do what your neighbor on the shelf is doing. When seeking ways to walk our own line between appropriate and surprising, we need to look outside our own category.


In the information age, one of my biggest challenges is finding the good stuff amidst all the clutter, and then keeping it organized so I can find it again.

What’s the deal with Pinterest? It’s great for creating inspiration boards using all of the great visuals you find in your research – and you can invite team members to collaborate. If you’re new to the site, email me for an invite and watch this short video tutorial.

Stumbleupon – the search engine you train to bring you cool stuff. When we need to get a fresh perspective or find a new source of ideas, we go here and stumble around. Tutorial here.

Cross-Pollinate from Fashion, Fragrance and Music for Inspired Wine & Spirits BrandingSterling Creativeworks

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