How character-driven labels are driving wine sales

Christopher Hayes in Beverage Packaging on March 15, 2016

As the wine aisles swell with an ever-rising sea of brands, wine producers are looking to increasingly rich and imaginative narratives on which to build their brands. Often, these narratives have nothing at all to do with the origins of the wine itself. Rather, these brands borrow from historical events or are based in universal human experience. The resulting brands are engaging customers and moving a whole lot of wine in the process.

Take a look at these two success stories from 19 Crimes and Josh Cellars.


1. Australian crime: 19 Crimes

The story: The 19 Crimes brand bases its story on the original offenses that back in the 1800’s could get you deported from England to the then-new Penal Colony of Australia. “Impersonating an Egyptian,” “Stealing a shroud from a grave” and “Clandestine Marriage” could all result in “Punishment by Transportation.”

Winning touchpoint #1–The label (see photo above): The creative team that sold in the idea of placing actual historical mugshots on a wine label deserves a round of applause. Photography alone on a wine label is somewhat rare—much less a gritty mugshot. When scanning the store shelf, the stopping power of the 19 Crimes label is undeniable. The faces of the convicts on the labels almost beckon shoppers “to release” them from the shelf.

Winning touchpoint #2–The short film: The three and a half minute web video “To the Banished” is a dramatic recreation of the banishment of poet John Boyle O’Reilly and his fellow prisoners on the convict ship Hougoumont. The camera follows O’Reilly under the deck where he gathers with his fellow prisoners and produces a loaf of bread, some cheese and a finally a bottle wine which they all share.

Why it works: Although the 19 Crimes story has nothing intrinsically to do with wine, it is at its core the origin story of Australia, which also happens to be where the wine is made. This lends an air of authenticity to the brand while allowing it to be wildly creative in its storytelling.

A passage on the 19 Crimes website reads: “The men featured on our wine labels are not those of fiction. They were flesh and blood. Criminals, artists and scholars.” This line cleverly bridges what could feel like dusty history lesson and instead transports the reader to the center of the story. Who of us wouldn’t want to star in our own outlaw tale that celebrates individualism in the face persecution? Wouldn’t you like to crack a bottle with your fellow outlaws? Are you thirsty yet?


NEXT: In the name of the father: Josh Cellars

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