November 10, 2005

the stormhoek label design: "why shouldn't a small wine company see apple or google as its competition?"


So here's where we are with Stormhoek.

We've got a great litte wine from South Africa, which I've been blogging about.

Then we sent out some bottles to other bloggers, no strings attached, to see what they had to say about it. As they're fond of saying in the blogosphere, to start a conversation.

I did this not because I wanted to turn bloggers into wine pimps, but because, hey, I thought it would be fun. I thought it would be disuptive. I thought it would be my kind of thing.

So far it's working. The groovy cats at Stormhoek are happy. By interacting with the blogosphere [I call it "Taking the Cluetrain seriously"], it's changing the way the company see themselves, and the the way the wine trade sees them.

It's changing the brand. It's evolving the brand. Sales are up. Good things are happening, whether they want them to or not.

So what's next?

The bottle design.

99% of people who go into wine shops do not read blogs. They've never heard of Stormhoek. A very small percentage may have read about it in the mainstream press (a lot of British wine writers like it, happily for us), but who can remember all those wine names you see in the Sunday papers? Sure, all the Cluetrain/Hughtrain stuff I'm doing for them is great for "The Internal Conversation" and "The Porous Membrane" etc etc, but as I've said again and again, 95% of Stormhoek's marketing to the customer happens on the supermarket shelf, in three seconds or less.

We need a new bottle design. A new label. Something that JUST. ISN'T. ABOUT. THE. FRICKIN'. WINE.

[btw: This is what the current bottle designs look like.]

I told Nick Dymoke-Marr the Managing Director of Stormhoek: "You're not competing with Jacob's Creek or Blossom Hill. You're competing with Google and Microsoft and Apple and Skype.

Yes, the product category is always irrevelvant. It's not what you do, it's the way that you do it etc etc.

So I'm now on the hunt for a label & bottle design that better reflects the whole post-Cluetrain/Hughtrain schtick that Stormhoek is slowly becoming internally, that telegraphs this instantly to the external market.

Why shouldn't a small wine company see Apple or Google as its competition? Think how more interesting the world would be if more small, non-techie companies thought the same.

I'm looking for a new "look" for the bottle that sits there on the supermarket shelf. The look may require a new label a new bottle, or both. Something that conveys everything I've been talking about above.

Something that conveys what the brand is becoming in this crazy, post-Cluetrain, wired age of ours.

So here's the deal. Instead of the usual going to a graphic designers and giving them a formal "Cluetrain-savvy" brief (which 95% of them wouldn't understand proeply, anyway) I thought I'd start the conversation by asking The Blogosphere if they have any ideas.

No, you don't have to be a graphic designer. An idea that works on the back of a cocktail napkin is just fine by me.

It's the idea, not the execution, that interests me at the moment.

Anybody who comes up with the winning idea, an idea we can actually run with, we'll pay them £1000.00 (roughly $2000 US). If you have an idea that might work, feel free to post it or a link to it on the wiki. Thanks.

If you know of any blogosheric designers and creatives out there, please pass this message along. Though yeah, this idea isn't just restricted to them.

Thanks again. Rock on.

[UPDATE:] Robert Scoble: "Microsoft's real competition is Stormhoek." Exactly. Tell Bill to watch his back etc.

[UPDATE:] Thanks for all the great feeback, Everybody.

Me and the groovy cats at Stormhoek spent the weekend going through your ideas, and have had some thoughts.

So I'm closing down this comment thread below, and moving the label design cvonversation on to Phase Two [which you can find here]. Feel free to join in. Thanks again.

Posted by hugh macleod at November 10, 2005 11:20 AM | TrackBack

Hugh -- I'm having trouble with the wiki, so I'm pasting what I wrote here:

The most important thing that should be done to all of the bottles is to make them transparent. Completely transparent, with no coloration of the glass. Do they have something to hide? This annoys me when I look for wine on the shelf -- generally for red wine, I can't look at the color in the store. Additionally, you might add some web information to the label -- bloggers' comments, perhaps the web address. (Is it on there? I can't see, the pic's too small). I make notes about wines reviewed on weblogs for the next time I go wine shopping, so people might do the reverse -- make notes about a wine they saw, then go check it out. Just about anything else you can do seems like it might be gimmicky; odd bottle shapes and such. How about building a vacuum pump into the cork? Something simple. Ship it that way, instead of with the screw top. (perhaps a bit too gimmicky or expensive) Those are the most useful and practical things I can think of. --Brock Tice

Posted by: Brock Tice at November 10, 2005 1:00 PM

A distinctive bottle shape is also something which should be persued. I used to work in a wine store many moons ago and one of the most popular wines was a German brand who had a transparent, distinctive bottle. Unfortunately I can't remeber their name of the top of my head. Basically the bottle neck ran down much further before expanding at the base, giving it more of a bell appearance.

My only word of caution would be to make sure that it fits easily on the shelf. As popular as the German wine was, it created a headache for me because I could fit as much into the rack.

Posted by: Piaras Kelly at November 10, 2005 1:09 PM

Square bottles. Go square bottles. They don't sit well in peoples' racks, but they stack beautifully on the shelf.

Posted by: Pete at November 10, 2005 1:46 PM

Thanks, Guys... though for this exercise, I'm more interested in what the new label should look like.

Posted by: hugh macleod at November 10, 2005 1:55 PM

I always buy wines by the label, and sometimes stick to the labels I've enjoyed, so I'm right there with you on this.

What about featuring the convivial and social aspect of the wine (the end result, not who you are but what they get when enjoying your product), and doing something around sharing? You could write a recipie for a convivial time with friends, making 'serving suggestions' ;) and other tongue in cheek word and image devices to draw them in.

Labels I've loved are where the wine itself is not the issue, as in Big Frank's Big Pink - for a rosé, and Fat Bastard for another producer. Different bottles are fun, but often pricey. We've been doing work where the business card is the only thing used to explain the company and what it does, so I'm sure you can make the label sing on the shelf!

Posted by: Gill Wildman at November 10, 2005 2:02 PM

Check out the idea at this link.

Never mind the "social responsibility" label (yeesh) but the idea of a tetra pack is a good one. Only it should be better than what this vintner is using.

Posted by: Julia R. at November 10, 2005 2:14 PM


I think you are on the right track. The existing bottle/label design looks like every other bottle of wine (and if you didn't tell me the picture was Stormhoek, I couldn't tell from the linked pictures because the type was too small to see).

My recommendations (for what they are worth) are:

1) Larger Stormhoek name on the label. The great part about the name is that it has two parts, Storm and hoek so the visual could actually wrap around the bottle and people could identify it by glimpsing only part of the name.

2) Stormhoek, whether they like it or not, is a WIRED brand. I would suggest a recessed part of the label area with actual (very shiny) metal wires and dots (sort of like Hugh's art doodles). This would stand out in a wine shop and represent the electronic heritage of the brand. Alternatively, a flexible PCB could be wrapped around the middle of the bottle (and ideally it would be FUNCTIONAL... lighting LED's? Tracking shelf life?).

3) There are a couple more bottle ideas that could be pursued... emphasis on the "Hook" with a bottle that can be hung in it's own unique "rack". This would serve two purposes... it would be a unique feature and it would also encourage consumers to DISPLAY their bottles in unique places. The other bottle idea is related to Brock's cork idea...a light in the top of the bottle which, when twisted to "on" position, would project on the ceiling of the shop. It could also be a great way to find your way home in the dark of night with your bottle of Stormhoek!

What do you think?

Dave Wheeler
Nov.10, 2005

PS I also posted a picture of my original "napkin" idea on my blog, (since we all know that cocktail napkins are the preferred media for great ideas).

Posted by: Dave Wheeler at November 10, 2005 2:28 PM

I'm not getting something:

"You're not competing with Jacob's Creek or Blossom Hill. You're competing with Google and Microsoft and Apple and Skype."

How so? Can you elaborate?

Posted by: Milan Davidovic at November 10, 2005 2:31 PM

How about a big, clear serial number on the bottle, allowing the purchaser to find out the details of his/her bottle's production at the Stormhoek website, to record details of their experience with the wine, etc correlating with the bottle's serial number on the stormhoek blog/wiki/website, and so on? Maybe incorporate it into a trackback URL? A trackback for every bottle? (added this to my wiki page)

Posted by: Brock Tice at November 10, 2005 4:36 PM

On second thought, perhaps a trackback for every vintage would be better.

Posted by: Brock Tice at November 10, 2005 4:39 PM

This is not super creative in the classical sense but will distinguish Stormheok as completely different and more economic that changing the bottle shape - indeed changing the label is the best way of changing the bottle shape (just a thought)

My idea would be to run the stormhoek name vertically the length of the bottle - I cant think of any wine that does that and it would be visually arresting. immeditaely differntiating stormhoek on the shelf.

at the bottom of the name - ie under the k, would be the only piece of horizontal writing (a square the width of the stormhoek label in which the variety and year are identified).

Posted by: john at November 10, 2005 4:45 PM

I don't get it either. Not sure any of my clients would be receptive to such mind-expanding concepts just yet. Maybe in a few years time.

A wine should appeal to a much wider audience than the iPod/Google generation, although (given the size of the market)they're not bad places to start. Make it too esoteric/hip, though, and you could repel more than half your potential market, or the market you already have.

However, I'm not necessarily knocking the idea of fishing the Blogosphere for design suggestions. I think the tasteful use of the SA colours on the label would be nice. Wine labels can be pretty dull and monotone.(Don't suppose I'm going to get much of the bounty for that little gem.)

Posted by: Matt at November 10, 2005 4:49 PM

I created a sample implementation of the trackback. I think most people have *heard* of blogs by now. I would pick this bottle of wine up and take a look at the very least.

Posted by: Brock Tice at November 10, 2005 4:53 PM

Sorry to tell you, Brock. 'Most people' have not heard of Blogs. Huge swathes of the population, in fact.

Most people have heard of wine, though. So your label is only partly flawed.

Posted by: matt at November 10, 2005 5:04 PM

Hey Brock,

I don't know if this is true of wines as it is with beer, but as a homebrewer it's common knowledge that light will damage beer. I suspect the same is true of wine and if you ship it like that and then the wine is left to sit in those store lights it will go bad at a far faster rate.

Don't know much about labels, but my mother is always a sucker for a pretty design on label. So make it pretty (okay crappy advice I know).

Posted by: Thomas at November 10, 2005 5:05 PM

You don't think the numerous, often hype-laden stories about blogs in mainstream news might have reached most of the wine-buying population? Even if they don't know what they are, I think that the word is rapidly becoming more recognizable.

Is that particular to reds? Many whites and rosés ship in clear or nearly-clear bottles.

Posted by: Brock Tice at November 10, 2005 5:20 PM

One of my favourite, all time, re-brand ideas I found at the ketchup redesign contest ( Give the page a minute to load up then refresh again to go to the actual antry I'm refering to; If all else fails find the entry by John Pszeniczny ). There's no reason Stormhoek couldn't use this idea.

Posted by: misterchris at November 10, 2005 5:20 PM

By the way, what's wrong with the current labels/bottle designs? I think they look very nice.

Keep the current designs! People don't buy a wine just because the label is eye-catching, they buy it because they know it's good; because it has a reputation for being good and because they aspire to its inherent values. When was the last time Moet changed it's label?

Go for product placement!

Posted by: matt at November 10, 2005 5:23 PM


You're right, to an extent. But, a lot of words/concepts are mentally erased and/or ignored until the reader has had the experience for him or her self. Jeez, I wonder how many times I read the word Internet when I was at University and yet it never really registered/made any sense until I had access to it.


Posted by: Matt at November 10, 2005 5:38 PM

First of all, one of your cartoons would be fantastic.

Second, there's a real opportunity to use blogs here, or at least refer to them. This has a lot of future marketing potential.

New studies are showing that Word Of Mouth and Consumer Generated Content are affecting consumer decisions at a rapidly increasing rate. The wine can hype this. Don't take our word for it.. read the blogs.. we do.

I don't know if it's well-known enough yet, but you could play with the concept of "consumer generated content," suggesting that the very content of the bottle is somehow consumer generated -- because the producer of the wine listens to its consumers through blogs and so forth.

To play off the technology aspect.. you could use a global gr-ape image. Forget the apple; go for the gr-ape. Since the globe and the gr-ape are both spheres, and both global, you can create a logo that plays with these two images, showing how they interact. I could mock up some examples if you like. I'm thinking you could use a global-communications-type sphere as a shadow of the gr-ape.

I think some of these ideas could work in unison.

Good luck

Posted by: Cristina Cordova at November 10, 2005 5:47 PM

On a different note, I love that Microsoft wasn't even mentioned as someone to compete with. I wonder how Robert Scoble will feel about that?

Posted by: Brock Tice at November 10, 2005 5:47 PM

Oh never mind my last comment -- it was, just not at the beginning of the article.

Posted by: Brock Tice at November 10, 2005 5:48 PM

If 95% of buying decisions are being made at the retail shelf, then why are you going to the blogosphere to promote your design initiative? I think that the intent is novel, but you are confusing the effectiveness of each communication variable.

Alcoholic beverage consumption changes as people get older. Young 20 somethings predominantly favour beer and coolers as it is very much a part of their mobile, social, convenience-oriented culture. Wine only begins to enter the scene as people get into the mid-30 something set (dinner dates lead to wine, then that dangerous mix leads to marriage and it goes on the slippery slope from there). I am not aware of the blogger stats, but I venture that there is a strong bias towards the younger population.

If you follow the above logic, you'd have a much better success at promoting a new beer brand rather than a wine.

As for the wine concept - I make a living designing wine packaging and naming vineyards across Canada, the USA and NZ. The $2000 incentive is remarkably low for the going rate in this business. So I will hold off on submitting an idea - but will tell you that the Stormhoek name is a major hindrance to begin with. Regardless of the concept design, the name is not memorable in the least. 99% of wine consumers in the marketplace cannot remember the name of the wine they had with dinner the night before. Doesn't that tell you something!?

Good luck with the initiative. Prove me wrong!

Posted by: Bernie Hadley-Beauregard at November 10, 2005 7:15 PM

"99% of wine consumers in the marketplace cannot remember the name of the wine they had with dinner the night before. Doesn't that tell you something!?"

It tells me that people aren't having conversations about wine. They're having conversations *over* wine. That's what Hugh is trying to change.

Posted by: Brock Tice at November 10, 2005 7:47 PM

Matt wrote: "Sorry to tell you, Brock. 'Most people' have not heard of Blogs. Huge swathes of the population, in fact."

Well, Forbes readers certainly have now:

Posted by: Milan Davidovic at November 10, 2005 8:37 PM

"I make a living designing wine packaging and naming vineyards across Canada, the USA and NZ. The $2000 incentive is remarkably low for the going rate in this business. So I will hold off on submitting an idea..."


The going rate? What going rate? I'm asking bloggers, not pro's.

And why aren't I asking pro's? Why am I asking bloggers? Maybe you want to think about that ;-)

Posted by: hugh macleod at November 10, 2005 8:49 PM

You cannot always control product placement. I have a solution. It may not be original, but there you go.

You know those photos/prints of faces the eyes of which follow you as you cross the room. How about an entire face?

The label is a photo or drawing of a face - no Stromhoek or anything else - just the face. The eyes follow you as you approach. If the bottle is below eye level the eyes look up - plaintively. As you walk away the bottle sticks its tongue out at you. (Okay maybe that's a reach. I'm not sure what's technically possible - but the eye's have it so to speak. Ideally, when you're holding the bottle in your hand and examining the smiling face it then says in some hermaphrodic but still sensual voice - "Take me home with you".) This is of course triggered by a heat sensitive device on the back of the bottle, the hand of the holder triggering it.

So if there is a rack of fifty or so bottles
of Stromhoek on the shelves (each with a unique face?) all eyes are on you.

Perhaps there's a mix of male and female faces and voices. Would a man reach more for the beautiful female face - "God, you're a handsome devil" and a female for a male face "You have such beautiful eyes"

Posted by: brian moffatt at November 10, 2005 9:00 PM

First off, yeah, you definitely need a new label. And no offense, but I think it needs to be much better designed than the blog.

Some quick thoughts:

1) The "blog this bottle" and/or link back to specific information about the batch/barrel (per-bottle is probably asking too much) is a great idea. You should definitely do *something* along those lines, though I don't think Trackback per se is where you want to do it.

2) Have you talked to Jon Hicks? He's a blogger/designer, and I really like his work, and he's somewhere near you. (Don't know him personally, no business relationship etc)


3) Since you're doing the branding, Hugh, and you happen to be a cartoonist, what about having your cartoons on the label? What about making a different cartoon for each batch/barrel? (I keep saying that because I don't know the relationship at Stormhoek between a batch, which probably starts life in a big stainless steel vat, and a barrel, which they probably use for aging, and a bottle you buy.)

Other people have used cartoons, including big names like Steadman, so that's not so original per se but it could be a way to connect Hugh + Blogs + Wine.

4) Have a contest. Get the word out to real designers, few of whom are likely to know about you or Stormhoek yet. Give nifty prizes of wine to "finalists" and some cash prize to the one used, if any is used. (Always reserve the right to not use any of them, but don't make the contest any less fun for it.)

If you want to go all-out on that one, have the Grand Prize be a trip to SA to meet the winemakers.

Nice about #4, besides getting you a bunch of good designs, it gives another angle to push the wine and blog connection. Let people vote (returning traffic) and give some kind of "bloggers' choice award" to the design that gets the most votes.

Also gets you tons of exposure among young graphic designers - definitely a wine-drinking crowd.

Posted by: frosty at November 10, 2005 9:15 PM

oh, and hugh, needless to say, the implied benefit of flirty winking air-kissing bottles is: freshness matters. Of course. I knew I wouldn't have to draw that line for you but there are other people here on this blog (ie Johnnie Moore and Evelyn Rodriguez) who need things underlined. Smily thingy goes here.

Posted by: brian moffatt at November 10, 2005 10:27 PM

How about as a label, a SA lizard spewing out a flame of fire, and within it, a blob of speech in which say "blah blah-blog this. Stormhoek vitange year 200x"

Yeah, but the label has to be technicolor eye catchy thingy... Against a black colored bottle - it would kewl.

Posted by: /pd at November 10, 2005 10:53 PM

First off, forgive for using the comments and not the Wiki, it gives me the distinct impression that I'm going to break something.

Moving on, Hugh, you are my mentor. I'm not trying to suck up, but your blog has truly been an inspiration to me and my career. I appreciate this opportunity to interact with you.

Next: Here is my submission, Wine as a 2-Way Conversation. I welcome all of your feedback, either here or at

Thank you!

The Basic Idea:

Replace the wine label with an envelope, flap out and unsealed, attached to the bottle. All the envelope says is "Read Me." Inside the envelope is a letter (sample message below) from stormhoek to the potential consumer. It doesn't sell the wine, but rather asks the consumer to try it and let the company know what they think. As noted in the letter, the envelope is pre addressed, pre stamped, and attached to the bottle with post-it glue-- it can be peeled off and mailed straight to Stormhoek.

Why this works:
- It's a simple and pure cluetrain manifestation. We are very literally making wine a 2 way conversation.
- It's different and eye catching. A simple blank envelope that says "Read me" is completely unexpected on a bottle of wine, it sparks curiosity and grabs attention- could you resist?
- Interactivity- The envelope is a call to action- you have to read the letter to know what's going on. At this point, you've touched something, held something, read something, spent 3 minutes on something. What other products in the grocery store get more than a milliesecond glance? Consumers are already invested, they're holding the bottle, they'll drop it in the cart. Next, the letter is a call to action- it asks for their opinion- consumers feel important and worthy, the purchase becomes a step in a process, you buy, you drink, you contemplate, you share and are listened to.
- Insanely cheap- You can do this with office supplies and one color of ink... no costly bottle designs or fancy labels, not even color ink.
Timeless- whenever you try to make something look trendy or high tech, you alienate your older or less tech-savvy audience and you have to redesign in a few years when trends and techology change.
-You get customer feedback without doing research.
- Respects the tradition of wine- chaning bottles messes not only with the science of wine, but with a rich tradition. Respect it or you're pairing yourself with box wine. Additionally, grocery shelf space is a commodity, as is shipping and box logistics, just don't mess.

Sample Message:

Dear Potential Stormhoek Customer,

Thank you for sharing this moment of your time with us. You are currently considering purchasing a 2005 Stormhoek Chardonnay. We could try to sell you on our wine- mention it's full bouqet with subtle hints of starfruit, elderberry, and bamboo, how wonderful it is paired with grilled dishes or chicken vindaloo- but that would be rather self-indulgent of us, wouldn't it? Here at Stormhoek, we know that we don't have a business- or even a winery- without you, the customer.

While we naturally want you to buy our wine, we even more want you to drink and subsequently enjoy our wine. And then we want to know about your Stormhoek experience. You've clearly already noticed the envelope on this bottle, what you may not have notcied is that it peels off this bottle and is already addressed and stamped. We sincerely hope you will use this envelope to share your Stormhoek experience with us.

Bob, Sally and Joe Signature

Posted by: Lauren Kozak at November 11, 2005 1:12 AM

I always liked the Spanish and Hungarian wines for their simple, yet bold labels. The Sangre de Toro wines with the distinctive yellow label with black and red lettering and the little plastic bull attached to the neck of the bottle.

Clear or shaped bottles are great too. Clear bottles though lead to deterioration of the wines from UV... just as a note (which you probably know).

Posted by: Tim Jackson at November 11, 2005 3:53 AM

Bottle must be functional o wine transportation and conservation. Label should be designed AND printed in Italy. I'll try to interest some italian wine label design and print firm to your challenge. just for curiosity.

Posted by: Luca R. at November 11, 2005 9:06 AM

Lots of interesting ideas. I confess that a unique label and/or bottle catches my eye, as I'm perfectly willing to admit to an imprecise palate.

I'll toss in a heads-up to the coolest bottle design I've seen: Voga.

Posted by: Adam Bernard at November 11, 2005 1:48 PM

“are you doing something because everyone else is doing it, or are you doing something because no one else is doing it.”

Some of the best wine I have ever had was in Frascati, Italy and it came in a bottle with no label. That says fresh to me! If there is ever a way to communicate freshness it is to remove all forms of "commercial packaging".

Think about a tomato...

When you buy one at the store it comes shrinkwrapped in a green styrofoam tray with 3 other buddies all stickered, the same size, and with a barcode underneath. When you buy a tomato at a roadside stand the only thing adorning the vegetable is some dirt from the farmers hands as he places it in a brown paper sack.

Which one says fresh to you?

So wrap the Stormhoek "storm corner" (which I think should tie in somehow with the wine--TELL ME the Stormhoek story--PLEASE!) in a burlap label with some twine and your label with ingredients, size, warning not to drink while driving a zamboni, and other required info. Then when the wine is purchased and the burlap is removed...

TA DAAA!! The freshest looking wine you can buy. Imagine the story you can tell your friends about the freshness of your wine.

Seriously though, tell me the story of the Stormhoek name.


Posted by: thinkjose at November 11, 2005 4:38 PM


It's the tannins I believe that would be the issue. With Reds being aged more often (or is just my experience) you'd want to sheild them as possible.

Best I could find on a google search of the issue.

Posted by: Thomas at November 11, 2005 4:41 PM

I too, apologize for posting here instead of using the wiki; guess I'm not technically savvy enough.

Ever since I saw your blog post on this; I’ve been pondering it. I wanted to weigh in with some feedback on the current conversations and offer some thoughts of my own.

One of your comments was that it wasn’t about the wine. I respectfully disagree. If it’s crappy wine, people may buy it once out of curiosity because of the buzz (about the wine not from it) but they won’t buy it again or recommend it or serve it at parties to appear wine-wise if it doesn’t taste good.

I do agree with your point that most wine purchase decisions are made while you’re standing in front of the grocery store shelf. Most wine is purchased to be opened that evening and most people don’t have a clue what they’re looking for. As a result, they’re going to pick a bottle that gets their attention or is recommended.

On a side rant; traditional marketing spends a lot of time making wine purveyors their fans by getting them to taste their wines so they can give that recommendation to the consumer.

I also agree that the typical consumer is not going to be “blog-savvy” and while you may want them to visit the blog later, right now you want them to buy the damn wine.

So the goal then is to get their attention and start the conversation.

You originally asked for ideas for bottle and label designs.

I believe for the price point of these wines, you will find a real “creative” bottle design cost prohibitive. From the cost of making the bottle to the difficulty bottling with a traditional bottling machine, it would ad significantly to the end cost of the wine.

I saw some feedback on decorative bottles, including things like changing artwork. Not a bad idea although it has been done before. Mouton in Bordeaux puts a commissioned piece from a different famous artist on every release. A producer in the Pacific Northwest (whose name escapes me at the moment) has a series of paintings on their bottles as well. There is a wine produced in Napa that has a different portrait of Marilyn Monroe on each release. The wine is called Marilyn Merlot and they have become collectables. For them it is about the bottle and not the wine. There is an Italian producer (name withheld to protect the guilty) that has cover on their bottle that looks like a scuba suit including a zipper in the front. Cool looking bottle, but I’ve heard the wine sucks.

I don’t think most people are going to collect the bottles on a modest priced bottle of wine so I think getting overly caught up in a beautiful design is the wrong thought.

I think the idea is to get their attention and start the conversation.

It is important to keep in mind that whatever your design, there will be laws the winemaker will have to adhere to (they vary from country to country, I don’t know what they are in SA) in terms of things that must be listed on the label.
Working with those limitations, here are a couple thoughts on things you could put on the label to make purchasing the wine appealing:

Assuming a lack of confidence in the typical buyer, give them the information to make a confident buying decision. Some producers put some of this information on their back labels but it is generally lost in the fine print. Why put it front and center on the label?

“A crisp, light wine with hints of melon and kiwi.
Serve chilled with your favorite fish or salad.”

I think the typical consumer, standing in the wine department of their local grocer, is asking themselves these questions:

What does the wine taste like, how should I serve it and what could I serve it with?

This approach could help demystify wine for the typical consumer.

You could add to this by putting on the back label, a way to get other tasting notes and growing notes from a website (as opposed to the current “blog”) thusly:

“Want to look like a wine pro to your friends? Look up your wine’s pedigree on our website for more tasting and growing notes.”

A second thought on the back label was to invite them to continue the conversation on the site, not only the blog, but via a more traditional site that includes winery history, recipes you recommend, and serving ideas and recipes they provide.

They could opt-in for an e-zine with periodic news, updates, recipes, specials, etc.

I realize some aspects of this may not be as cutting edge as you might like, but I think you’d agree that your prospect isn’t likely to be that cutting edge either. I think the concept of education/information, and a consumer friendly product would generate interest and start the conversation that you can continue through electronic means.

An intriguing project; thanks for the opportunity to ponder it.

Posted by: John Dickson at November 11, 2005 6:58 PM

my .02 entry....

I envision a label designed with an old world map but have Africa punched out. Indicating where it is produced. Text flows over the rest of the map.

another possibility is to acid-etch the continents floating around the bottle with Africa shaped label which contains the required text. Reverse the etching for a frosted bottle with clear continents appearance.

Shows where produced but indicates global consumption. I'd leave the text to the experts.

Posted by: eSearing at November 11, 2005 7:38 PM

Jones Soda + MySpace = new label

Jones Soda puts a wide variety of unexpected photos that have nothing to do with what's in the bottle on their soda. A single batck of Blue Bubblegum soda might have a dozen different label images.

Do them one better. This is about collaboration and trust. Get fans of the wine to send in photos of themselves, with a model release and a short bio. Print those photos and bios on the label (with the caption "I drink this wine." (don't say they recommend it, that gets into other legal issues). Print lots of different photos on the same batches of wine, so that each label on the shelf is different.

You could include a web address that goes to a site where people can sign a model release and upload a photo and bio, though I'd work out the kinks with the lawyers first.

Posted by: JJeffryes at November 11, 2005 9:33 PM


Posted by: mazza at November 12, 2005 1:28 AM

I'm having trouble with the wiki too. I tried to post my suggestions there and I screwed up. There was a nice gapingvoid-esque drawing of a "bottle 'o disruptive marketing" on the page and I accidentally wiped it out. And I don't know how to get it back. I'm so very sorry. Please help! :-(

I'd still like to post my suggestions on the wiki, if anyone can tell me how to?

For now, a quick page of doodles I made for the label:

Posted by: Sharon Foong at November 12, 2005 8:08 AM

Mor ethan any Bussiness , In India moving and trafficking people is becoming most viable bussiness , with 1 billion population almost , increasing the traffic everyday to south Africa by 1000 numbers is planned.

Many Hindu temples are constructed to Stone congregate the mass crowd and brain wash them.

Check out the master funding organisation why would you need south African wine, once there are too many many Indians , they are going to drink Indian Wine from Hindu India.

Posted by: Garbahari at November 12, 2005 8:27 AM

If this is for the UK, do a cartoon of one of your penis blokes, saying 'Hugh's Johnson recommends this wine'.
That'll sell it to the lewd end of the market, and also to the folk who want to wind up wine snobs.
For the US, you could try an equivalent gag based on Wine Spectator, but here the market is well segmented into snobs and Trader Joe's shoppers.

Posted by: Kevin Marks at November 12, 2005 9:14 AM

How about:

1. "borrow" Google's multicoloured font
2. add Yahoo!s distinguishing mark -


(presumably after a couple of bottles your voice will sound like it does over Skype, so that angle's covered)

Posted by: Danny at November 12, 2005 9:41 AM

First off, I like the original label. I really do. I also like the
name, a lot. It tells me a story of a rugged country and a robust
wine. I haven't tried Stormhoek yet (not available in Canada) so I
have no idea whether the product lives up to my personal dream world.

Secondly, I understand what you're saying when you're talking about
competing with Apple and Seattle, but I also think that you're so far
ahead of the curve you've ended up behind the game. Low to mid priced
wine is a commodity if ever there was one, especially the modern,
oaked whites. There's little to differentiate yourself from your
competitor apart from the creation of an emotional connection, the
telling of a story. That's why I think the name 'stormhoek' might be
one of your most valuable brand assets.

I personally have very little brand loyalty when it comes to buying
low to mid priced wines. I do have a few favourites, but I tend to
browse the shelves for wine made from my favourite grapes and make a
decision based on the taste info on the label.
With whites I tend to stick to Ontario whites, simply because I am a
bit of a hippy and like supporting local business. Ontario red -
well, I haven't found anything I really like there, so it's mostly
Chile and California for me. I leave the expensive wine buying to my
wife, who actually knows what she's talking about when it comes to
this sort of thing.

The one thing I hate are clever names, like Goats do Roam etc. Can't
stand it and won't buy the product whatever the quality might be.

Posted by: Andreas Duess at November 12, 2005 1:59 PM

Along the lines of Brock's suggestion for trackbacks, but without the drawback of only appealing to bloggers: What about an SMS number which you can email to get more details on that bottle/barrel/vintage (you decide)? Although, SMS is not as popular in the states, it seems to have much broader popularly on your side of the pond.

I'm sure it needs to be fleshed out more, but if it gets the Average Joe to spend an extra 30 seconds with your bottle, that's a huge part of the bottle. Obviously, the label design would need to draw attention to the functionality while the bottle was still on the shelf with the rest - but I imagine it's possible.

Good luck!

Posted by: Tim McGovern at November 12, 2005 5:50 PM

Since we're speaking of personal shopping experiences...I buy Yellow Tail. Based simply on the label. I liked the label when I saw it, and the wine is okay for $12 CDN. I'm trying to think of the wine I bought before that...I can't remember the name...but it had some sort of zebra effect on the label. Again same price range...Years ago - like twenty-five - I bought Sangre de Toro because of the little bull on the neck. There might be something in the animal symbol thing...regional? national? primal? If the Welsh made wine you'd put a badger on the label. In my neck of the woods there's a new winemaking region - separate and distinct from the Niagara region - for the life of me it would be hard to stick a Moose or a Beaver on a bottle of wine. Probably a Great Blue Heron for for me. South Africa? Springbok? Been done? Beautiful animal. Graceful, majestic - oh no wait it's gotta be about more than the wine.

Posted by: brian moffatt at November 13, 2005 2:29 PM

A friend posted this spot to me, so i decided to forward a thumbnail of an idea. Trying to do the exact opposite of what most wines I have seen do.

Its an interactive .swf so when you roll over elements, an explanation pops up.

Posted by: Jason Knight-Martin at November 13, 2005 3:54 PM

Think inside the box:
“Tetra Pak was founded on the concept that a package should save more than it costs.”

I have NO connection to this company.

Posted by: Julia R. at November 13, 2005 9:22 PM

tetrapack? fricking tetrapack. jesus christ - the bane of landfill. save more than it costs? tell that to the rubbish mountain.

Posted by: james governor at November 14, 2005 10:58 AM

Further to James' point about the environmental impact of discarded Tetra Pak containers:

Posted by: Milan Davidovic at November 14, 2005 3:21 PM

Hello Hugh!

Thanks for the challenge and for sharing all the exciting adventures!
I hope you will forgive a poor english...

Few things I would like to say first about STORMHEAK:
-I don't know the wine
-I have heard about it because you've talked about it
-I don't feel like going back to their blog, but I like what YOU are saying about the blogging around their wine
-I like the idea that the important is telling stories others will like telling others..
-I like thinking people all around the world will taste this wine just because they've heard about it by Word Of Mouth
-I like being able to "trace" the stories so we get linked together
-At the end I would like to have a bottle of Stromheak for my next dinner so I can tell that story to my friends! I will tell them about all the ideas and everything on your blog...and if by any chance I have the right friends then we'll be right on the spot for a very very nice conversation feeting right close to our needs?!

Ok, here is what I thought could be interesting:
(I wish I could show you that on a table cloth, that would be easier for me, I tell you!)

(*Word Of Mouth)

-MAP OF THE LINKS made by / towards blogs talking about the wine (I think it is possible to visualize!)
The map is like visualizing the "chateau" were the wine was made. The "chateau" is everywhere but can be visualized and reached.

And then, a precision (very important!): BEST LINKED BY "the name of the blog" in 2005

-on the bottom, a fine line:
WOM made this wine very popular
or sometnhing around the Mouthfull...

-Every year or every cycle you can come up with (we never know with you!) makes a DIFFERENT COLOR on the top of the bottle and means different things like: "better drink it before they change their mind!" etc.

(his picture? the adress of his blog?...
the one who best linked...)

Well, I hope It is clear enough to talk about it!
Have a good one

And thank you again!


Posted by: Estelle at November 14, 2005 9:27 PM

FWIsW, I like the above idea of portraits (all in B+W maybe?) with "I drink this wine" - simple, fun and direct, perhaps with a brief biog. Could induce nausea if too smiley, beautiful or aspirational ("I'm a dj / architect / rocket scientist and have recently had my first novel published" would really turn you off in your local 7 Eleven on a rainy Wednesday evening) but otherwise has great potential. I also like Estelle's ideas, tho' I can't follow them all. Finally, it is interesting to note how many comments refer to wines the names of which the commentee (?) cannot remember...
Sorry not to have ideas of my own yet - I'm working on them over a glass of Oyster Bay (chosen because of its taste, I originally tried it because it comes from New Zealand which seems to produce consistently more interesting and tasty wines than other countries, though maybe this too is all in the marketing).

Posted by: Patrick Dodds at November 14, 2005 10:25 PM

Just a few quick comments - most people posting here have no idea about the legalities of wine labels. Every country you want to sell your wine to will have rules - like the size of the font and font size relativities between different things (e.g region to product name to vintage), the size of the label, the detail on the front and rear labels, etc, etc. As I ran my eye over the posts I noticed things like "use an envelope instead of a label" - but a lot of countries have very strict rules about having all the info stuck (ie not removable). Plus you need to consider the practicalities and costs associated - the minute you move to labels with cut-outs, or etching on the bottle, or any of that flash stuff the packaging costs skyrocket. Winemakers will also have a lot to say about the colour of the bottle - the darker the better to reduce the effect of heat and sunshine on the wine. And ultimately, if you're after repeat sales it doesn't matter what the label looks like - it's what the wine tastes like that matters.

So sorry Hugh, don't want to burst your bubble - but you probably should have given people some boundaries to work within. I work in the wine industry and the label is one of the most regulated areas in the industry. The last thing you want to do is spend time and money on a label only to find it won't be approved for sale in say the UK or US!! It's all well and good to think outside the square - but it's worth knowing your limitations too.

For more info check out your country's wine industry board for all the rules - e.g. in Australia go to

Posted by: michelle at November 15, 2005 2:32 AM

I'm not quite comfortable with wiki, so I post here as well.

I'd rather suggest to try something inexpensive instead of changing the shape of the bottle or making individual labes for every new bottle. Why not to wrap completely every bottle with cheapest paper, like a gift wrapper? Two reasons a) you can use more surface as a label and it makes you very flexible in implementing new designs (if you actually need any) and b) why not? create a legeng (people tend to love things like this) that this is the only wine which first meets daylight in your glass, which preserves... whatever you want to preserve in good wine. And by the way, I would agree with Brock Tice - the bottle should be transparent. Nothing to hide, true. But if you have to protect your wine (I have no glue, do they have to?) paper wrapper can do the job.

When I stare at the endless wine lines in a supermarket I would preferably notice bottles which look different, and I'd rather believe that the bottle which looks outstanding has something outstanding inside. So why waste time and money in creating new labels (who said you can create something truly fresh and convinient simultaneously) if you can change the way it looks and the way it percepts? When last time you were looking for a bottle of wine as a gift or just for something new besides this same looking merlots and sovignons, weren't you looking for something outstanding? Er?

Posted by: Kirill Smirnov at November 15, 2005 1:00 PM

I like your site very much, but I'm not sure about the idea of getting some product design for $2000. I live in the US but I read this London blog as well.

Posted by: Johnny K at November 15, 2005 8:17 PM

Thanks for all the great feeback, Everybody.

Me and the groovy cats at Stormhoek spent the weekend going through your ideas, and have moved the conversation forward to here:

So I'm closing down this comment thread, and moving on to Phase Two. Thanks again.

Posted by: hugh macleod at November 15, 2005 9:57 PM