Many of you will remember that when we started out at Chollet, 10 years ago, the vineyard had not been making its own wine for many years, but was selling all its grapes to the local co-operative. We always wanted to make our own wine, so that wasn’t an option for us. But it meant that we had to do everything (and buy everything!) associated with wine making from scratch.
One of the most important things we had to do was to design our label. Being a marketing man (or having been one, once) we did this by researching amongst our ‘target customers’ – many of you may remember this, because we had Mike Barlow, of Mi Creative, design 10 labels, all of a different nature, after careful study of different forms of labels, and ‘market tested them’ by e mailing them to everyone on our family and work contact lists to ask them to rate them. We tried labels from the traditional to the contemporary. (One was called ‘Fat Bird’ – not a sexist/sizest joke, but an acknowledgement of the success, believe it or not, of ‘Fat Bastard’ wines in the US and in Europe, and the fact that a fat pigeon (a ‘palombe’) is an emblem of our area in France and we have a ceramic ‘Fat Bird’ perched on the top of our tower.
‘Fat Bird’ didn’t make it through to the next stage, which was to ask a focus group (inevitably, and with better results than Mrs May’s, carried out by Kim and Teresa from B different, who Mrs May should have asked to do hers……….) to discuss the four labels which scored best and choose a ‘winner’ from them. The clear view, as you can see from our label, was actually really quite obvious – if what people are looking for, when they buy wine, is classic Bordeaux, then when they open the case on arrival, it ought to look like classic Bordeaux. Hardly a shock, but the fact that we sell most of our wine directly to peoples’ homes, through specialist merchants, independent restaurants, or ‘at the Chai door’ means that there is not the need to try to catch the eye on a supermarket shelf.
We did do one or two things deemed ‘radical’ in Bordeaux, like putting the grape varieties on the labels (revolutionary!) and adding an informative ‘back label’ with details of the harvest, alcohol content, tasting notes etc.
Our existing label
So that is where we were, and still are. It seems to have worked. But 10 years in, is it still the right call? To help us judge this, around 80 ‘friends of Chollet’ got together to try some of our latest wines at the Royal Over Seas League in St James’s, earlier in the year. By way of a task, they had to go round the room and give a score to each of a dozen alternative label designs on display. The labels were a selection from the specialist French printers who we use, of what they thought were the best of the latest designs they had been asked to print.
You can see the labels displayed below. Numbered 1 -12. We asked everyone to rate then from 1-10 and also to give a rating to our existing label. Not a process I would submit to the Royal Statistical Society, but the result was clear enough. Of the ‘new’ designs, only two scored an average of over 6/10 – Number 8 (which scored highest with 6.2), and Number 5. Both quite traditional.
By contrast, our label scored an average of not far off 8. Of course, one has to account for a bias, everyone there being familiar with the label as it stands. But there doesn’t seem to be a great reason to rush to radical change.
So over the winter, Kirstie and Paul will mull over the findings and think what, if anything, to do next. The best brands – think of BP, Mars, Cadburys, Coca Cola – may evolve a bit over the years, but are still immediately recognisable from their first evocation. So a bit of updating might be right – or maybe we could borrow something from one of the high scorers, for a ‘special cuvée’ one day.
Watch this space – or, rather, watch this label! If you have any views, we would be very happy to hear them.
Best wishes to you all, and thanks to Marie Williams (formerly Marie Belsham, whom many of you will know) for organising the evening and the analysis. Marie is running her own ‘virtual PA’ and events management business now, so if anyone needs anything in that line…….email@example.com.