I just read here about a new term – Brands of Emptiness – that was coined by UK wine writer Oz Clarke. Like David Farmer, I also think its a great term, not just a catch all for all those appalling Australian “critter brands” that have flooded overseas markets, but also all those other brands out there with hollow cores – sort of like the Wizard of Oz I guess. From the distance they look full of subsatnce and promise, but get closer and there aint much to look at.
But getting back to wine; I have been doing some branding work for a few different wine brands – mainly exploring potential brand stories through label design – and it is entirely true that once you give a wine drinker a way into the brand they latch onto it. An interesting snippet about the history of the winery, a new way to look at a varietal or blend, a quirky piece of packaging – People become interested. They look at Australian wine in a different way. It tells people that the wine makers actually care about their product and the people who drink their wine because they are doing things a bit differently, and they are talking about Australian wine beyond the horrible caricature that we have become. The big brands have relied on embarrassing cliches that limit and stunt a drinkers relationship with the brand. All they can see is cheap and cheerful. I am dismayed when I hear drinkers from overseas tell me that “Australia doesn’t produce any great wine”. Not their fault – ’cause that’s all we sell them!
As we have to compete more and more with “cheap and cheerful” wine from other parts of the world, we are going to have to rely a bit more on our brands to pull us through. And people want engaging brand stories (and will pay more for them) than the cliches.
(The picture above demonstrates the sometimes absurd moments of my job. Hungover in Miami, soaking labels off mock-ups of 24 bottles of wine, before I flew back to Australia…)