A Wine Writers View on the World of Wine. Formerly Magics Wine Guide and Reviews for Newbies
What happens when major producers decide to re-market or re-brand their products?
I appreciate the need for companies to ‘freshen’ up their image every once in a while. A result maybe of stagnating sales or possibly an over eager marketer looking to impress. Or it could be the need for a smaller producer to promote to a larger audience. Fair enough. The thing is though, is it always necessary?
In the UK, to be fair, we don’t really like a whole lot of change. the phrase ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ comes to mind. We get used to certain labels. They become a sign of reliability. We know what it is they offer.
As consumers we are driven by the aesthetics of products. I always encounter customers who, whilst looking for a wine, will tell me they are buying it because the label looks pretty. They don’t understand what it is they are buying. Invariably they don’t want my advice. Alternately the same could be said for brand placement. Brands become fashion icons. One person drinks it, passes it on to a friend the next thing you know a sub £5 bottle of wine is now widely distributed as a £9.99 masterpiece. Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc ringing any bells?
Don’t get me wrong. I like Oyster Bay. It’s a good Kiwi wine. Just not worth a tenner in my mind. What would happen though if they decided to change not just the name but the label too? Would this change your perception of the wine. After all the wine would be the same but the aesthetics have changed.
This is what has happened with Montana Estate wines, now Brancott Estate.
Montana began production way back in 1934. Ten years later they sold their first wines. Now, shift forward some forty years to Brancott Vineyard, Marlborough, the hallowed site of where the first Sauvignon Blanc grapes were planted on the South Island. The first vintage was released in 1979 and voila, a whole new wine region is born. Originally the area was thought to be too cold for grapes to ripen. But this hardiest of fruit and vine was to prove all wrong.
The more recognised label has a clean, classical feel to it. It demonstrates a clear definition of the brand, region, variety and vintage. It’s easy on the eye and makes you feel you are getting value for money.
The new label gives the feel of a new wine altogether. For me it has a cheaper look. Plain white background, simpler font. The label is split in to two. The mountain range across the middle shows the wine inside. Clever but unnecessary. Traditional Montana drinkers will be searching high and low for their brand. The change in name on the label before Christmas was sufficient to show consumers there would be a change. It still incorporated the traditional Montana feel.
What would be interesting for me over the coming months is to see how this could effect sales.
One of my customers used to regularly buy a £16 bottle of Bordeaux, Chateaux Saint Ahon Cru Bourgeois. He came in one afternoon and decided on something different. When I asked about his change he told me it was because I didn’t have his usual wine on the shelf. This is where I had to point out that I did but it had a label change. The new label altered his idea of the wine. It now looks like a £6 bottle of wine. Terrible. What’s more is he stopped buying it.
Now, that little digression is based around what has happened to a smaller producer. The effects on a huge brand like Montana/Brancott could be massive. So it goes back to my previous point…..
Is it Necessary?