Avoiding Wine Brand Redesign Pitfalls

How to tackle a brand and packaging redesign when 50% typically fail

by Andrew Adams
scandanavia u.s. wine sales
Jessica Gaedeke and Steve Lamoureux with The Nielsen Co. discuss successful brand redesigns. Photo: Cody Gehret.

Yountville, Calif.—Thinking about redesigning your wine brand with a new look or just an updated label?

Take care, only about one out of every 10 brand redesigns delivers a significant sales impact and half of them typically hurt a brand.

That assessment came from a duo of experts with The Nielsen Co., at the recent Wines & Vines Packaging Conference. Steve Lamoureux, senior vice president of product innovation and design solutions and vice president Jessica Gaedeke discussed the importance of brand packaging and how to best ensure a redesign goes well at the conference that drew more than 400 people to the Lincoln Theater in Yountville on Aug. 16.

Gaedeke said packaging is the only marketing material that reaches 100% of all potential customers so it’s “incredibly critical” to get it right. “The design has to be your voice. It has to do that advertising on the shelf.”

It not only helps attract consumers, but the right packaging can help secure the interest of distributors as well as keep a place on a retailer’s shelf when they’re evaluating what to stock.

When a redesign goes well, the effect can be tremendous. Gaedeke cited the wine Black Ink, which is a Guarachi Wine Partners’ brand and underwent a 2014 redesign based on the brand’s name and targeted for the growing market of red blends priced between $9 and $12. Before launching the redesign, the brand was a low-volume, higher-margin brand priced around $40 and with distribution only in California.

Napa, Calif., based CF Napa Brand Design presented the company with several options but ultimately went with a strategy based on the name Black Ink and utilizing “tattoo-style” type for the name and a black label. On the top of the capsule the designers added an image of a squid (black ink) that proved to resonate with members of the trade and consumers.


With a Halloween-tied release that featured temporary squid tattoos as part of retail aisle displays, and a better market position as a high sales volume red blend, the redesigned label propelled the brand to a nearly 13-fold increase in sales. According to Nielsen, the redesigned Black Ink was the most successful product launch in Guarachi Wine Partner’s history. The brand also received an honorable mention in the Nielsen Design Impact Awards that measure redesigns with market performance.

Most companies, however, are not so lucky. Gaedeke said 90% of all redesigns don’t provide a significant effect and 50% prove to have a negative impact on brands. She said Nielsen offers “six fixes” to ensure a redesign is worth it. “If you do some of these you may get lucky. If you do all you create a repeatable growth strategy,” she said.

Lamoureux discussed each of these fixes that included:

Enlighten your leaders. A redesign won’t succeed unless there is buy-in at the ownership or top management level. Lamoureux said the boss needs to understand good design is critical for any packaged goods and the price is relatively small compared to the potential sales increase if a redesign is done correctly.

Invest. Unless a company is willing to pay for good design, it won’t receive it. Settling for the lowest bid could be a major mistake and Lamoureux said a company should view a good design firm as an investment rather than a cost.

Face the music. Maybe your brand is doing just fine, or maybe it actually isn’t as bad (or good) as you think. A company needs objective data on how its current design is performing to best understand how it could be improved. If a company redesigns a well-performing brand, Lamoureux said it likely will find that 50% failure rate.

Make a great plan. The creative brief will be the basis of the designer’s strategy so it is vital that it has a clear goal based on an accurate evaluation of the current brand design.

Explore. Lamoureux said most design agencies will provide three or four options, but if one can review more, that will help the process. He said evidence suggests that if a company considers more designs, the best one will be even more effective.

Involve the market. Getting objective insights on the subjective tastes of the consumer is critical, but Lamoureux said it has to be done accurately and correctly for it to be worth it. It’s that type of consumer perception analysis that Nielsen was pitching to the attendees of the conference.

The firm can conduct extensive market research to gauge not just if consumers like a redesigned label but if it stands out among others, what it communicates, how it makes them feel and for what type of occasion they think it would be appropriate.

Prior to the conference the Nielsen team analyzed 20 brand redesigns. Of these, only about half of the consumers surveyed preferred the new design.

But in other analyses, the new design of some of those brands stood out better against comparable products and some of the redesigns also evoked more of an impression.

Canoe Ridge Vineyard, a brand of Precept Wine Brands in Washington, went from a classic label that consumers mostly described as “simple” in a spontaneous association survey, to an updated label with a bold and colorful image of a canoe on a scenic lake and the brand name “The Explorer” in a larger font. The new label generated nearly double the impressions with words such as “adventure,” “outdoors,” “interesting” and “colorful.”

Without a complete and objective analysis of one’s new brand, Lamoureux stressed that it’s impossible to know exactly if and how the redesign is working. He also wrapped up his presentation by making this point: a simple and safe design won’t offend anyone but it also will be guaranteed to not grab anyone’s attention. “If no one is offended it’s benign and boring,” he said. “Design is very difficult. It’s not an easy thing to do well but it’s so worth it.”

Currently no comments posted for this article.