In his new book 99 Bottles of Wine, David Schuemann exposes wine industry secrets regarding the manipulative craft of wine label design and the use of subliminal techniques to motivate consumers to buy a specific brand.
Schuemann’s book also includes about 100 photographs of the cleverest, most enticing wine labels in the business. Schuemann notes that people typically associate simple, clean designs with expensive, refined vintages.
“More expensive labels tend to have a cream or white background with a simple logo. Maybe a splash of gold or metal. But they don’t have critters on them. Otherwise, experienced wine drinkers think it looks cheap.”
A carefully crafted label can make us think the bottle is way more expensive than it is, and it can boost our enjoyment of the wine itself, says Schuemann of CF Napa Brand Design, who has been designing wine packaging for more than a decade.
“We’ve done some consumer research in which we poured the same wine for people, but from different bottles,” Schuemann says. “The more they like the label, the more they like the wine.”
NPR cites a study that claims even when two wines are actually identical, when people think that they’re drinking a $90 bottle, pleasure centers in the brain are more active than when they’re sipping on a $5 wine.
Schuemann tells NPR they attempt to make a wine look about $10 more expensive than it is in order to manufacture the appearance of a better value. “We add gold foil to the label or a gold stamping. We emboss the label or add a third dimension to give it a rich texture or tactile feel.”
Novice wine drinkers require more visual stimulation, so Schuemann says his team makes the labels more garish and gaudy for wines under $10. “They’re whimsical in a clever way,” he says. “And we’ll still add a bit of gold foil to show the quality.”
Time is also invested on a unique foil design. “Then people tend to perceive the wine as more expensive because so much care has gone into even the foil,” he adds.
The foil’s color on cheaper bottles helps beginners know what flavors to expect, Schuemann says. “A red foil communicates berries, while a green or yellow foil says buttery or tropical flavors are inside. Then the consumer says, ‘Oh! That looks like it’s going to taste good.’”
And the colorful descriptionss on the back of bottles work their magic on your mind, says Aradhna Krishna, a marketing professor at the University of Michigan.
“Eating and drinking isn’t just about taste, but it’s a combination of all our five senses — smell, touch, vision and even sounds,” she says.
NPR notes one of her recent experiments, she and her team showed two groups of people ads for potato chips. One ad focused on taste alone. But the other described how the chips smelled like BBQ and had a crunchy texture. The group that saw the second ad thought the chips tasted better because it evoked several senses.
The same goes for wine, Krishna says. “If the description on the back makes you imagine the wine’s fruity bouquet and the way it feels in your mouth, then the taste will be enhanced and consumption goes up.”