Graphic: Rabbit Holes

Your Brand is More Than a Label, But the Label Still Matters

Good Brands Are Like Good Wines, But A Good Customer Experience Can Only Start Once They've Agreed to Have an Experience.

If you’ve shopped for wines, you’ve been confronted with a typical customer dilemma: How do you pick which wine to buy if you’ve not tasted any of them? If there’s no one to ask—or if the owner’s sister’s husband’s nephew is working his way through school by running the register—the label is the default initial indicator of flavor, value, and quality. Afterward, things like the weight of the bottle, the region of the vineyard, the price range, etc combine to provide an initial impression.

Now, a fancy label doesn’t guarantee a good wine; but a well-designed wine label says “This company cares about their product.” and that alone will let people take a $10-$15 flyer on a brand they’ve not heard of before. A bad label might ensure a wine never gets discovered.

Spoiler: Your Brand is the Wine

You might be the best company, provide the best services, and create the best customer experience in the whole world-wide-webiverse, but potential customers only see the bottle. What’s in the bottle is unavailable until they’ve invested time, effort, or money.

You could offer free samples. You can provide testimonials. You can show examples of your work. But those only get to potentials who have stopped and looked at the label.

Let’s make a comparison.

What Does A Label Say About A Brand?

You pick the label, I'll tell you which one sells better.
You pick the label, I'll tell you which one sells better.

Label 1 (Left)

The first label was on a pretty good Zin, gifted us by dinner guests. It’s a black label on a dark bottle. When it was full, it was black on a background of deep purple wine in a dark green bottle. The text is mostly in silver foil, with the darker black text done using a clear varnish which provides a subtle draw for your eye. The label uses whitespace and typefaces effectively. It’s classy, not shouty. If anything, it’s restrained. Also, it’s not pretentious. The line-art logo is downright playful. This vintner isn’t asking you to bust out Brahms on vinyl or set the table with 4 forks per seat just to have dinner with friends. Label 1 says that the wine is well made, by people who care about wine, for people who enjoy wine. This F. Steven Millier guy has confidence that he’s giving you the good stuff, but he’s not going to shout at you or pretend that his product is too precious for mere mortals to enjoy. I like him. I want to like his wine—and I did.

Label 2 (Right)

Now let’s look at Label 2. It’s on the same bottle. In theory, it’s the same wine.* The color of the label will certainly grab your attention. It’s a bold choice. The hand-drawn lettering shows the vintner took the time to label this bottle individually. If you’re feeling charitable —as an obvious recycler—he’s eco-conscious, but perhaps (as the previous label shows no signs of scrubbing) he’s just cheap. Misspelled words, a very recent vintage, and the quotemarks around WINE imply this beverage was “produced” by people who care about things other than wine for people who don’t care what they drink. Label 2 says “You Might Be Donating a Kidney Tonight!”

Who Gets The Customer?

Now, assuming the wine inside the bottles is the same, and the price is the same, which one will get bought? And, how cheap would Label 2 have to be for you to buy and/or drink even a thimble’s worth? Would Label 2 would need to pay you to take a sample?

Want a Real Life Example Of Inconsistent Marketing?

Here’s a post about Lighty AI, a real-life company with a split-personality branding problem, and what it might be costing them.

Embrace the Label

It would be nice if every wine and every brand could just stand proud on the merits of their taste, quality, value, and service irrespective of their label. In truth, they do…eventually. Eventually, every brand that entices a prospective customer has to live up to the label. At that point, you'll either meet, exceed, or miss the expectations you've created. I'm not arguing that a good label will overcome repeated bad customer experiences. Eventually, customer experience becomes the brand. Then, you can play around with treatments and colors.

Until then, embrace the idea that you can create perceptions and expectations by creating a brand look and feel that represents you, what you do, and how well you do it. Create a personality for your brand by speaking in an authentic voice about things you know and care about. Your label is made of all these things.

It Doesn't Need to Break the Bank

While a full branding package might run $30K or more, you may not need that much, and you may not need it all at once. Perhaps you start with a basic logo, and look & feel package. There will be some upfront money, so make sure you give good direction and feedback so it doesn't get wasted. Then create a "Personality Budget" that builds a consistent picture of who you are and what you do. Use it to make cards, a website, etc. I like websites more than IG and FB because a website never starts running an algorithm that posts competitor's messaging alongside yours, and open standards last longer.

Most of my clients spend between $1,500 & $5K a month to make sure every part of their marketing presents the brand consistently and reliably. Interested? Tag me today and let's get started building a brand you'll be proud to show.

Let’s all overlook the fact that I enjoyed making a Cabernet-to-Cabinet pun more than the obvious Zinfindel-to-Zinfidel one because I spent a weekend replacing a bathroom sink.(back to article)
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