Dog or not dog on the label?

by Eve Resnick on November 30, 2009

in General

Last week I was interviewed for the French TV channel France5 on how to market efficiently French wines to international markets. The first question of the journalist was: is there any difference between “Old World” and “New World” wine labels? She wanted me to show some “New World” labels. I pointed the “Red Rover” label to her as being “fun” and efficient with the dog face, the name “Red Rover” and the obvious grape mentioned on the label. She was sure no French wine could feature a dog on a label. Really?

Next day I had lunch with a friend in a Bordeaux restaurant and we both ordered a glass of Château La Folie 2005 with our lunch. We asked to see the bottle. And bingo! There was the cutest little dog on the label. Of course the style of the design was very different: I didn’t have my camera and couldn’t take a picture but it was one of those nice looking dogs – not the impressive mean-looking dog of Red Rover.

What does it mean? First of all, French labels are getting more contemporary. Wine makers are now aware that pets are part of our everyday life, like our wine and food. This kind of design is a good way to reach the consumer and appeal to his/her emotional side. Then, it also means that wine makers are ready to simplify their message on wine: wine is not always a serious and difficult subject. It’s fun and can be drunk without commenting on it for hours. Enjoy your wine in front of the fire place with your dog sitting at your feet during the cold season or outside in the garden while your dog is playing when it’s nice!


1 Anonymous December 2, 2009 at 8:51 pm

Hum, hum,
totally disagree. Why on earth would we need to copy new world style label? They do not copy us. they have their originality, we have our ones. Chinese are wanting french labels with castles, not with dogs. American may want dogs on their labels, but when they shop for french wine, that is not what they are looking after. Sam old story as grape varieties stuff. They all criticized the french labels years ago and now, in every winemaking region of the world, they are fighting to try to get some recognition for their region, sort of AOC style….
The French difficulty comes much more from a lack of business vision and marketing modernity, which does not mean putting a dog on our label. Do Champagne put cats on their?

2 Anonymous December 2, 2009 at 9:26 pm

At some point a choice has to be made between art and commerce. This is true of every creative effort and wine is one such endeavor.

The label is but one aspect and has nothing to do with the wine inside. However, many consumers see only the label. If nothing else, they have trouble finding a wine they have heard about because they can't easily recognize its label, it isn't distinctive enough.

I'm glad people criticized the French years ago for their labels. And they should also criticize the names. Too many chateaux and too many similar wine names make it hard to remember or recognize a wine, even if you've tasted and liked it. They will need to listen sooner or later.

Marketing modernity, yes. In today's world, visual impact is everything. No product can be sold without visual appeal. The old world approach is to imagine that "because we make the best wines in the world" – or did until recently – "we shouldn't stoop to tricks like the New World does."

French wines will need to meet the competition on its own level. The world has changed, memorable visuals are the only way to be recognizable and to elicit a response in consumers.

The dog on the label is a red herring. Forget the dog, and make a product that says "buy me" in the cultural language of that market.

Shop for French wine? No one "shops for French wine" except francophile wine geeks. The majority shop for "good wine". One doesn't shop for "Australian wine", but they make a beeline for Yellow Tail. They can easily find it on the shelf, the name is easy to remember, and they find it to be high quality for the price. Which it is.

Taking the rarified air approach is fine, "nothing wrong with our wines and we won't screw around with labels". If that's the road you travel, there is zero basis for rioting in the streets and causing disruption and injury because the "great wines" don't sell to the mass market.

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