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October 19, 2007

Wine Packaging: Room for (Major) Improvement

Posted in: Comment

I’ll get this out of the way right up front - direct to consumer wine packaging is pretty sad. Un-thoughtful. Minimalist (ok, cheap). Underwhelming.


Paradoxically, direct is where we producers make our best margins. It’s the place we can most afford to give our best customers a memorable, positive experience. And yet where do all the marketing dollars go? Why, to programming and incentives for corrupt distributors, and toward label and box designs aimed at retail.

As an industry we’ve got it all backwards. Sure, retail is competitive and to stand out you really need to loose the hounds (and the wallet) on the marketplace. But what message are you sending to your direct customers, your “brand ambassadors”, when your $80 pinot arrives unceremoniously in a plain brown box, with nothing other than a receipt inside to show that human thought ever actually entered into the packaging process?

I’ll tell you the message you’re sending.

“Hi there. You’re a high margin customer and we’d like to keep you that way. We might send you some expensive vintage announcement cards to entice you to buy, but once you’ve forked over the cash we’d like to keep it in our pocket, thank you very much. Enjoy the wine Mr. Direct Customer because that’s what you paid for, not a pretty package.”

I think that view is pretty myopic. These direct folks need to be nurtured and cherished. We need to pet them lovingly, and often.

Consider posts like this over at Vinography entitled “When Wine Tastes The Best“. Think back on the last time you had a really great, transcendent glass of wine. Chances are it had less to do with the quality of the wine in the glass than it did with what was going on in your life at the moment. It’s all about experience.

Why then are we sending plain brown boxes to folks forking over luxury prices for a bottle of juice? After all there’s a reason a Tiffany’s box is green (or blue - what heck colors is that!?), and it doesn’t have anything to do with the quality of the silver inside. It’s all about the experience, managing the expectation of what lies within. And it’s an experience that we can help direct with creative packaging.

Sure it will cost more. Sure it will take effort. But aren’t direct customers worth it? And isn’t the payoff worth it? If people are happy, wine just tastes better. That’s good for the customer, good for the brand and good for the bottom line.

By Josh Hermsmeyer.

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