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Nielsen Design Audit Series: Wine Category

by Elizabeth Freeman on 01/12/2016 | 5 Minute Read

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This Nielsen report evaluated package designs for 34 select top-selling and up-and-coming wines, highlighting brands that are using design effectively to win with consumers. Findings include best practices for wine brands and design agencies to develop packaging that grabs attention, drives consumer preference and builds brand equity.


Why Package Design Matters for Wine

With 64% of consumers trying a new product simply because the package catches their eye, package design is one of the most under-appreciated marketing levers. Here’s why package design is especially important for wine:

· The category is crowded. In 2014, 4,200 new wines were introduced to market, representing 12.5% of category items. 

· Media spend is low. In 2014, media spend for wine brands was only 7% of that for beer—which means that wine relies heavily on the “advertising” that happens at shelf.


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· Package design can help gain distribution. Winning over retail wine buyers is essential, as distribution has an enormous impact on sales. These buyers understand the power that good package design has on a consumer’s decision to purchase.

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Key Findings

1. Stand out from the packs. Products that don’t register on consumers’ radars won’t have a chance to compete at all, so it’s essential to grab attention quickly. Across the different price tiers tested, the most visible bottles were seen by up to 77% more consumers than the least visible bottles, as determined by eye-tracking technology. Additionally, some bottles held consumers’ attention by up to 2.5x longer than others.

 2. To stand out, be colorful and contrarian. For wines under $20, bottles with brightly colored (e.g., red, orange, gold, etc.) labels and capsules tended to grab consumers’ attention best. In the over $20 price tier, which generally gravitates toward a more traditional aesthetic, bottles with a bold or contrarian look stood out.

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 3. Distinct personalities drive engagement. Package designs for wines in lower price tiers often have personalities that are approachable and easy to discern (e.g., casual, fun, etc.)—so bottles that are dark, classy, sleek and premium, such as Beringer’s recently redesigned label, tend to make an impression. Wines over $20 adhere to more traditional aesthetics such as neutral color schemes and classic typefaces, creating an opportunity for disruptive package designs—such as The Prisoner and Chalk Hill—to stand out.

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 4. Millennials favor the bold and the breezy. For wines over $10, Millennials expressed more preference than older generations for bottle designs that are bold and distinctive. On the other hand, more traditional designs such as Robert Mondavi and Kendall Jackson tended to fare better with Gen Xers and Boomers. For wines under $10, Millennials appreciate designs that are innovative and fun. Most Millennials—and females in particular—seek unpretentiousness over sophistication at this price point.

 5. There are whitespace opportunities for brands looking to pack more personality. Many dimensions of brand personality remain unclaimed or weakly held by the leading wines included the study, creating differentiation opportunities for other brands:


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· Under $10: sexy, distinctive, innovative, bold

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· $10-20: casual, approachable, fun

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· Over $20: casual, fun


6. Images attract attention, but it’s not always positive. When images are present on a bottle, they tend to garner the most attention and the strongest reactions—positive and negative—relative to other elements. Classic images directly related to wine, such as vineyards and chateaus, elicit a generally positive response from consumers. Less traditional visuals can be intensely positive, while others can be polarizing due to content or execution.

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Nielsen’s Research

Nielsen tested package designs for 34 select top-selling and up-and-coming wine brands amongst 2700 U.S. wine buyers, ages 21-64. Wines from different price tiers (under $10, $10-20, over $20) were tested separately to control for competitive context.

 The Nielsen Design Category Audit methodology uses a combination of cutting-edge technologies, including eye-tracking and online choice-based exercises to assess:

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· How well a design stands out and holds attention in a competitive context

· Personality traits consumers associate with each design (via both free association and structured exercises)

· How consumers’ perceptions of each package design align with their current impressions of the brand