A Wine & Spirits Brand’s Powerful Asset: Its Story

As a marketer or brand leader, you probably recognize the power of a great story to elevate your communication. After all, storytelling has been a bit of a buzzword in marketing for some years now.

But there’s real science behind the power of storytelling. First, it’s part of our history; it’s how humans communicated for thousands of years until written language came along. More to the point, our brains are hard-wired to process stories more efficiently than bare facts. Thanks to an effect called “neuro-coupling,” our minds associate what we hear or read in a story to our own personal experience. One often-cited data point suggests that humans are 22 times more likely to remember a fact when it’s presented in the form of a story.

And because a story connects not just with the mind but the heart, it’s very persuasive. It creates a sense of authenticity. A great story captures our attention and makes us feel a part of the narrative. Storytelling is sticky. Which is why marketers talk so much about storytelling.

But how does this translate to packaging for wine and spirits brands? After all, a label has to do a lot of work — not only to communicate a lot of information in a small piece of visual real estate, but also to convince the consumer that this … this is the bottle you want to take home to enjoy with your friends and family.

Imagine trying to tell your brand’s story using words alone within the confines of a bottle label. Add to that requisite label information like spirit or varietal, country of origin, ABV, etc. Practically impossible.

Visual Storytelling in Beverage Packaging

When a wine or spirits brand has a unique story or concept behind it, and that story is skillfully translated into the packaging design, it can be the single most important differentiation point of the product among its competition.

Translating words into images — that’s the key and the challenge. Consider one of our clients’ brands, Dutch45 Golden Rum. The default visual language for Caribbean rums leans toward pirates, ships, and nautical motifs like anchors and rope. But the makers of Dutch45 gave the brand an intriguing backstory: A myth about a man named Dutch who set out in a single-seat airplane to find the world’s greatest rum. He disappeared, and 45 years later his downed plane was found in the jungle of Venezuela — along with the recipe for the rum.

For Dutch45, the usual tropes for the category weren’t appropriate. So we used their story to design the label with a spirit of exploration, spotlighting Dutch’s plain, its tail afire as it coasts above the palm trees. A compass rose, encased under a glass lens, adds a distinctive tactile touch that reinforces the narrative. You don’t have to know about Dutch or even believe the legend to feel that this spirit will fuel your own sense of adventure.

A sense of place is often important to a brand’s visual storytelling. When two family-owned wine estates, one in Portugal and one in Italy, came to us for a label design for their Douscana bottling, we tapped into their respective locations. Portugal’s Douro and Italy’s Tuscany regions have many differences including winemaking styles and grapes, but our label solution blended together natural elements that are common to both places: grape clusters, vines, sunflowers, and more. We rendered these motifs almost like they’re etched in stone, to celebrate the families’ long history of making great wine.

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Other brands we work with use storytelling in their packaging as a representation for the product itself. Liverpool Lost Dock Spiced Rum is distilled in Guyana and flavored with Chinese oolong tea and spices from around the world — a melting pot symbolized by the waterfront docks of Liverpool where ships from around the world unloaded their wards. Today, the dock area is in ruins, so we looked to the port’s history for visual references. We were inspired by old cash and stock bonds that might have been exchanged in the port’s commercial activity in the 19th century, and drew upon typography and embellishments to convey that narrative. An engraving of a tall ship and the mythical bird symbol of Liverpool add detail.

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Finding Your Brand Story

If the package design doesn’t visually translate the unique story of the product, it won’t be standing out in the crowd of other similar products, and won’t realize its full commercial potential.

You can create a brand story out of thin air, but it’s so much more powerful when it’s real and original. So how do you develop a compelling story for your wine or spirits brand?

The story goes deeper than the brand name and the logo; it’s about history and place and people. To shape their brand stories, we ask clients to consider questions like these:

  • WHO is the brand? Is this a family business? What’s the family history? Are there unique characters in the family tree that should represent the brand or inform the naming?
  • WHERE is the brand? Is it anchored to a city or region? What are the defining characteristics of the place — geographically, botanically, culturally?
  • WHY is the brand? Why does the brand exist? What’s its mission or purpose? Why are you making these products, and why now?

When a brand has a story to tell, consumers are willing to buy the product simply in order to share that story with friends — they have talking points for conversation and it makes them feel in the know. We can help you with storytelling through packaging design in an engaging and visually exciting way so your brand is irresistible to consumers.

Book a discovery call today!

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A complete Guide to spirits packaging design

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