Daniel Shaw

Beyond the Label

“Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.”
Mark Twain

A statement that feels more appropriate with the drinks industry than any other – taking what is in reality a manufacturing process and making it feel organic, crafted, and artistic. Creating a story behind a liquid and squeezing it onto a label that stands out on the shelf next to all its competitors. But is that the end of the story? Can you easily repeat it to buyers and sommeliers, and can they to their customers? Is it unique? Is it memorable? Is it alluring?

Photo by Scott Warman on Unsplash

Your label is understandably the most important place to introduce your brand. It’s likely to be the first time a customer has discovered you, so it has a lot to do, and it’s not as though you will have the customers attention for too long. But if you can get customers to pick up your product, its chances of being bought are far higher.

However your opportunity to add information to your label that will be read is limited. Research between the Universities of Lincoln (New Zealand) and Melbourne (Australia) found that the photo and brand name on a label had a longer gaze time than any other elements. Proving how much work these elements have to do if you want to capture the customers attention.

But what is the story behind your label, and why is it so important to have one?

In 2022 it's estimated that over 280 million cases of wine were sold around the world, made by around 65,000 wine producers (www.wine-is.com), and that doesn’t even account for how many brands there are! So to have an identifiable brand in this environment is difficult, but definitely not impossible.

With consumers increasingly choosing brands that espouse their own values, your story needs to have a clear set of messages, and a unique heart.

Where a brands story really comes into its own is outside the label. It will ensure you have a consistent message wherever your customer encounters your brand, whether that be from a sommelier, bartender, on your website, or on social media. After all, you work so hard to give your liquid a consistent flavour and quality, why wouldn’t you do this with your story.


If you look at a brand such as Château Galoupet you can see that their core message is very much about nature, the environment, and sustainability - which comes out in every level of their communications. Their first wine comes in an amber bottle made from 80% recycled glass, which is revolutionary for a rosé wine. More surprising is that their second wine is packaged in an eco-friendly flat bottle made entirely from ocean plastic salvaged from seashores. Weighing only 63g its 10 times lighter than the average bottle and its flat design is 40% more space-efficient, reducing carbon emissions in transport. Which all gives a strong message that they are willing to stand up for their beliefs, even if that means going against the expected norms.


The Macallan, a single malt Scotch whisky distillery, have also centred their brand around the environment. They describe themselves as ‘mindful custodians of this precious land, drawing creative inspiration from its rhythms, scents and produce’. They describe sustainability as ‘second nature’, detailing an approach that encompasses everything from their ‘Habitat Management Plan’, which ensures the protection and enhancement of the many species of wildlife and plants, to their commitment to making the Estate passenger vehicle fleet 100% electric by 2025. While in the distillery natural by-products are repurposed, with 80% of their energy coming from renewable and non-fossil fuel sources, with an aim to be fully carbon neutral by 2030.

What’s interesting is both of these brands have chosen nature as their core message, not surprising or unique, yet they both communicate it in such a way that makes it feel believable. Like their own individual story.


Wine bands have very similar messaging; terroir, history, and nature.

Over the last few years we’ve been fortunate enough to work with Famille JM Cazes in Bordeaux. Helping them define the brand of their newly purchased vineyard Château Haut-Batailley (something which doesn’t happen very often in the Médoc). As part of the project we visited a variety of vineyards from across the region, and what became clear is they all have very similar messaging; terroir, history, and nature. It was obvious as to who had taken the time to define their individual stories thoroughly as their brands felt believable, and it was clear as to those who hadn’t!

They already had a label design so that was our starting point – going on to define the key messages and creating a rich story that translated through to architecture, landscaping and communications. But that’s a bigger story for another time.

Core values that make you unique and engaging.

So take the time to step back from your brand. Identify what core values make you unique, and importantly which of those will be embraced by your customers. Ensure these values are clearly communicated at every interaction with the brand; how you talk, the stories you tell, and how it’s all visually presented. Get the whole team onboard and make sure everyone understands them. Then you’ll have a brand which feels authentic and compelling, which will engage your customers, who will become your best ambassadors.

Daniel Shaw