Walk into any wine boutique or browse a retailer’s selection of fine spirits, and you’ll spot them: shelf tags with award insignias touting the superior quality of selected bottles.
Awards aren’t just “nice to haves” for wine and spirits brands; they’re essential marketing platforms that help sell product.
There are few product categories where awards wield as much influence as they do in wine and spirits. (The J.D. Power Awards in the automotive market is a notable example.)
Why? Simply because these two categories can be challenging for consumers to navigate.
There are so many products in so many variations from so many brands that retail shelves can be overwhelming. What’s more, consumers feel huge pressure (either self-imposed or from others) to choose the right whiskey to serve at a party, the ideal wine to bring to a friend’s house for dinner. Bottle labels don’t help, either, if the consumer doesn’t already know the difference between styles of gin or varietals of red wine. (We can certainly help your brand tell your story and engage buyers through packaging.)
Finally, consumers have no way to evaluate the product before buying it. Especially with premium brands, the higher price point may make them hesitate to spend on a product they’re unfamiliar with.
Wine and Spirits Awards as Social Proof
Awards or similar recognition like a numerical rating from an industry expert function as social proof—a concept originated by Robert Cialdini in his book Influence. In short: If people are unsure about making a choice, they’ll look to what other people are choosing. When shopping for a product that they haven’t previously experienced, consumers lean heavily on recommendations from others in their family or social circle. (This is why influencer culture on social media has become a major marketing machine.) When someone makes a choice, it’s not about making the best choice, but it’s about not making a poor one.
Without a personal recommendation, then, industry awards function as social proof. An award program logo or a gold/silver/bronze medal displayed on a bottle or shelf tag functions as a heuristic aid—a mental shortcut that helps people quickly make choices. Even if she doesn’t know much about the awards themselves, a shopper will instantly shift her perception of a product if she sees a notice that a product scored 90 points or received a silver medal. She’ll feel more confident making a purchase knowing that someone else has done the research and confirmed the product’s taste and quality.
An award can also be a signal of the brand’s commitment to its products. The consumer will intuit that if the brand owner invests heavily in the effort to pursue awards, it means they believe in the product enough to put it out there for competition.
The importance of awards and endorsements is especially relevant to younger consumers—they’re keen to impress their friends, and at the same time not interested in understanding sophisticated differences among brands and products. They need easy cues to help them make choices.
Even wine and spirits aficionados who know the market well (and don’t need anyone’s advice) pore over enthusiast publications and websites, constantly looking for new brands and products to add to their home bar or cellar. Gold medal winners certainly capture these discerning customers’ attention.
Benefits of Winning Awards for Products and Packaging
As a producer, it feels awesome when your wine or spirit scores a win in a major competition. But the marketing payoff can be far bigger than the ego boost.
Wine and spirits programs conduct heavy marketing campaigns on behalf of winners, promoting top products with rich content through their own social channels, on their websites, and in industry media. Winners also typically get to use icons or graphics on their packaging and in their own marketing materials. A win essentially doubles your brand’s marketing efforts.
What’s more, these award competitions are typically managed by organizations whose mission is to elevate the wine and spirits industries generally, so they provide winners with additional support—including valuable market data, marketing advice and strategies, various support tools, and collateral.
Industry awards can introduce your brand to new retail buyers and influencers; for example, the New York International Spirits Competition touts that 18% of entrants are not currently available in the U.S. market. And like consumers, retail buyers look to awards programs to validate the brands that they offer.
Choosing the Right Award Programs for Your Brand
By now, you recognize the influence that wine and spirits competitions carry. The question becomes, which one(s) to enter? Fees, shipping, and submission requirements can be costly, so you’re smart to take a strategic and targeted approach.
Some awards programs are global, others based in major cities; some recognize packaging design or the liquid within (or both); some are broadly focused, while others spotlight specific varietals or types of spirit, like the World Rum Awards (in which our client Liverpool took home a silver medal). They can be judged by industry experts, journalists, retail buyers, or even consumers.
We guide our clients to enter competitions for packaging design or wines and spirits based on their strategic goals. If you’re growing your brand with an eye toward being acquired, for example, then a medal in the San Francisco World Spirits Competition can expose your company to qualified investors or purchasers. If you’re a startup brand seeking real-world market validation, then the Sip Awards (which is judged by consumers) is a good option.
Design-focused awards can generate interest from wholesale and retail buyers seeking hot new products for their shelves. And a design competition win builds your confidence in the packaging you’ve created for your product and gives you peace of mind that it’s not just attractive, but successful in the market.
Wine and spirits awards can increase brand awareness, generate buzz, differentiate your product, and help consumers choose you for the first time. If you’re a small or startup brand, you’ll reap even bigger benefits from a win and the resulting marketing push.
Not sure where to enter? Need a stunning package for your unique wine or spirit? Let’s get in touch.