CORVALLIS, Ore. - Whether you want a wine to convey sophistication, ruggedness or even how much it costs, it has a lot to do with the way that wine is packaged and designed.

A new study, which appears in the May issue of the Journal of Marketing, surveyed more than 300 individuals and 125 design experts on many of the top brands of wine. The study was co-authored by Keven Malkewitz, assistant professor of marketing at Oregon State University, and Ulrich R. Orth, professor of marketing at Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel.

The researchers developed empirically-based guidelines to assist managers in selecting or changing package designs to achieve the desired consumer response. For instance, exciting brands should have colorful designs with a lot of "contrast" to help images stand out. Brands wishing to convey "sincerity" should use natural designs (nature scenes, earth tones).

Rugged brands might use large, bold fonts and labels and bottles that appear to be more massive.

"Managers have a vested interest in accurately conveying desired brand impressions," Malkewitz said. "You would be surprised though how many companies don't understand what messages they are conveying with their designs. With this study we try to give stakeholders in the process a way to communicate, both with their customers and within their company. This gives designers and marketers a common language."

For instance, while it may seem obvious that a label featuring a smaller, italic font conveys sophistication, does the bottle itself convey that same sophistication? Is the neck of the bottle longer or shorter? Should the "shoulders" of the bottle be more sloped or not? What is the girth of the bottle itself?

Malkewitz, who spent 15 years as an executive with adidas before joining OSU, knows all too well the importance of correctly packaging a product. He remembers specific cases of shoes that had been designed with hip 20-year-olds in mind that ended up on the feet of aging baby boomers.

"The evidence we present in this paper strongly argues for the importance of examining package design as a means for generating brand impression," he said.

Even more surprising: Malkewitz said design affects more than a consumer's impression of the wine.

"Without a doubt, how something looks affects how things taste," he said. "There are studies where researchers took the exact same wine and put it in different bottles, and people's responses varied tremendously. Package appearance affects how people perceive taste."

Click photos to see a full-size version. Right click and save image to download.


Keven Malkewitz,