Back labels: blurb or bumf?
Contemplating the purpose of that wine copy.
Remember the time when a wine bottel had one label? In that era, the barest minimum was sufficient inspiration for wine lovers. Essentially, only identification (producer, style/type, vintage) was the purpose of the piece of paper stuck on the front of the bottle.
These days the so-called ‘black label’ is de rigueur – and so ingrained in consumer perception that a bottle without it seems to have something missing in its packaging.
But what is the real purpose of today’s back label?
The simple answer is that it is supposed to tell you more about the wine – implying that the work that the front label did well for so many centuries is not enough. It’s a reasonable argument, given the free-flowing, still booming universe of wines out there. So, yeah, the confused consumer probably do need a hand.
But it’s what the producer tells that consumer – those words, wistfully, wise or otherwise, on the label (sometimes matched to a little illustration) – that, on closer scrutiny, is an interesting issue for debate.
From a pure marketing/advertising point of view, the intension is straightforward: convince the nosey, potential wine buyer that yours is exactly the one bottle of wine to fork out money for. The one to take home.
Developing and getting to that ‘unique selling proposition’ is the classic mantra that powers the very business of marketing and advertising. Anyone who has ever had just a peep at this insider business, will tell you how terribly challenging and difficult it is.
So coming up with sleek, hard (or soft) selling text for that back label – the kind of copy that will knock the socks off every other neighbouring bottle on the wine shop shelve – is no kindergarten job.
Why is it then that, if you take time to read some of the stuff on the back of bottles these days, you want to throw up your arms and shout ‘dunce!’
Seriously off-putting is back label copy riddled with puny adjectives and awkward odes to the liquid inside and the skill of the fabulous winemaker. ‘Delicate’, ‘crisp’ ‘delightful’, ‘lingering’ … the clichés are endless. Not only is this pompous and pretentious, if not empty promises, but, like any consumer product, open to individual question.
Naturally this applies also to those ‘whiffs of tobacco, swirls of cherries and aftertaste of roasted whatever’ that the more ‘serious’ notes offer. What if I’ve never tasted a roasted whatever? It may be a little more thoughtful and considerate, but the fact remains – as so much research shows - that individuals smell, taste, and perceive differently.
So what’s to go on the back label, if one is truly needed?
How about simply a note about the wine’s profile and the maker’s intention? A little background, as’t were. Something sensible. Leave the consumer to evaluate, judge and decide on the adjectives.