The Grapevine

Wine Buying and the Psychology of Labels

January 4th, 2017

When you make decisions on how to stock your shop, do you blind taste the wines you are considering? Do you live by the adage, “buy with apples, sell with cheese?” You may be wasting your time. [level-members]

We’re certainly not ever going to encourage you to do anything other than be true to your own tastes and and to stock your shop with wines you find interesting – and good value. But, the fact remains that labels matter more than we’d like to think.

In fact, the label influences some 71% of wine purchasers. And even though you’ll probably never get anyone to admit they their favorite wine isn’t a particular varietal or region but “anything with an animal on the label,” about half of the top-selling wines in the US sport an animal on the label.

Now that may be a reversal of cause and effect – Yellow Tail is an incredibly widely marketed and competitively priced wine, so it’s popularity may skew those results. But the fact remains that labels matter. The question is what should you do about it?

That will depend on your shop and your clientele. If you’ve built a very small (or not so small), very personal shop, you may very well be able to ignore the realities of wine label psychology. Your customers trust the collection you’ve edited for them, and they trust that each bottle will be what they expect in relation to price, varietal, region, and so on. (That doesn’t mean they’ll love every bottle, but they’ll feel your wines are “honest.”)

If you stock wines with a broader appeal, either because of the nature of your local market or the niche within the competitive landscape you’ve carved out, you will probably have to be more aware of how labels impact wine-buying decisions. All things being equal, the bright, fun, animal-filled label is the wine to stock. And perhaps that’s what you do for casual, occasional customers who aren’t as discerning as your core audience.

And of course, if you’re competing on price and price alone, then Yellow Tail it is …

Regardless of how you may feel about people picking wines based on the label, there’s no point in ignoring the reality, even if you find it inane. In fact, you’re far better off being aware of the oddities of the human mind than fighting them because you wish things were different.