Let’s imagine a well-stocked shelf of wines or, alternatively, the web page of an e-shop that provides clear and easy navigation functionalities as well as the correct observation perspective: this is certainly a classic situation that each of us has experienced (with no doubt as you are in the Magazine section of Winefully!) and which has seen a series of dynamics come on stage such as to govern the choice of the own wine to buy.
The reasons behind the selection are mixed and many of them are linked to the intrinsic motivation to purchase: an occasion to celebrate, a present to make, a bottle to collect, a long-desired wine finally available, a label chosen because of a direct or indirect advice from a friend, from social media or international critics, the availability of certain bottle formats and finally also the price, either because it is linked to a certain budget in hand or because it is able to generate savings if compared to other buying opportunities. Which is the fil rouge that links, more or less intensively, the reasons mentioned, certainly not exhaustive of all the buying opportunities that we can experience?
Aesthetics, meaning the mediated perception through the senses of the characteristics of a product that, at the time of purchase, is unknown or only partially known.
There is no doubt that the ancient saying according to which “even the eye wants its part” applies very well to such purchasing situations, hence the key role of Marketing in creating a certain appeal in the product, the bottle of wine, so to motivate the buyer to select it jointly or separately from other variables that are part of the decision-making process.
However, not all the five senses are stimulated during the study phase in which the details of interest are captured: a closed bottle will hardly be able to stimulate the sense of smell unless the storage conditions of the purchase site are below standard and motivate us to walk away as soon as possible (see also the article “Premium bottles: how to store them properly” nor the taste; however, the stimuli towards hearing may be greater, especially if combined with the touch in handling a bottle and storing a series of information from its profile, from any writings imprinted on the glass or from the quality and grain of the label and capsule, where available.
We leave sight inevitably for last, as this is the sense that most conditions the choice of a wine when buying in person sharing other details with touch and hearing, and it is the only sense conditioning the purchase in case you opt for online platforms. In the world of wine, the strategic nature of the packaging of a bottle has long been clear: a lot is invested so that the product transmits the values of the cellar, communicates clearly and immediately to the consumer, allows them to go beyond the information on front and back labels, provides details in line with current legislation, mentions the progressive number of the bottle in the case of limited editions or, last but not least, provides a message related to the positioning of the product at Marketing level.
Even the smallest detail counts and can really make a difference: objectively, has it ever happened to choose one or more wines being guided by our knowledge or references from third parties, but also by our instincts and visual preferences? How many times have we faced winking labels or creative packagings that generate curiosity and desire to learn more or simply elegant “dresses” perfectly in line with the reputation of a particular wine? And how many times have we dropped the purchase of wines unable to communicate or whose packaging wasn’t in line with that specific situation?
It has happened, it happens and it will keep happening as the consumer is more and more skilled and informed and there are many ways to provide information that in the past might not have been so relevant (or perhaps they were, but only for industry experts). The trend is common to all markets (not only for wine since also spirits or water or carbonated drinks are no less) but in our world the winery choices aimed at a greater focus on appearance and on the perception of the product from the customer (consumer or not) can be seen with greater clarity. This happens because the wine market is highly heterogeneous and characterized by a history often linked to single territories and wineries, often guardians of a tradition that many times comes from family and that market trends have no way of affecting (or at least they can’t afford at the moment).
Therefore, it will be always difficult and even limiting to compare wines which essence is contained within the glass and wines where the outer dress is essential to finalize the sale. Both have the need to meet the customer’s purchasing power but the ways they do so are radically different, activating in a diametrically opposite way the senses underlying the decision-making process as well as the emotions, sentiments and feelings that can characterize certain purchases. The selection of a wine is supported by internal and external decision-making elements. The former refer to the wine itself, its history, the winemaking and aging techniques, the vintage and the terroir. The latter, on the other hand, are attributable to the way in which the wine is presented, the label, the packaging, the price and other factors that contribute to wine presentation and description.
As it emerged in the study named “Neuromarketing meets the art of labeling” commissioned by UPM Raflatac to SenseCatch in 2018, it clearly emerges that, keeping out the price variable, it is the label with its design, the types of paper and finishes to influence the choice of a wine. As mentioned by the title, the subject was analyzed at scientific level using the research methodology of SenseCatch, which integrates neuroscience and consumer behavior to analyze the reasons behind the decision-making processes of the consumer in an objective and scientific way. The research work has been published in this bookand in the scientific article “Neuromarketing Meets the Art of Labeling. How Papers and Finishing on Labels Affect Wine Buying Decisions” by the American Association of Wine Economics magazine.
Therefore, it is clear there are objective as well as subjective reasons behind certain purchasing choices that involve one or more senses in evaluating multiple alternatives that get gradually shortlisted to identify the product of highest interest.Aesthetics, understood as what pleases the eye so much as to create satisfaction for a purchase, then comes into play and leads us to lean towards certain options depending on whether the stimuli are more or less aligned with expectations.
The external appearance of a bottle of wine is key, with the label playing the most important role together with any external packaging that makes the product unique and immediately recognizable, as well as highly attractive. Even focusing only on the label, the real distinctive character of each wine, we would have a very broad spectrum of messages to be received and analyzed: hence the focus on the dynamics that push a buyer to select specific labels following specific stimuli linked to graphics, tactile perception or the mix of colors that distinguish the individual wines.
Depending on the specific needs underlying the purchasing process, each or all together can play a more or less decisive role, with highly heterogeneous results following a rational reasoning that is largely but, inevitably (and for us, luckily) also emotional.