Bucking Plain Label Trend is All By Design, Austin Hope says

Austin Hope will readily admit that a simple, clean uncomplicated label design is often the way to suggest the contents of your bottle are sophisticated enough to buy and easy enough to sell that retailers will stock them.

The owner of Paso Robles, California-based Hope Family Wines produces five different brands, but the one that bears his name chucks this rule of labeling out the window.  The Austin Hope label features original artwork produced by himself, his wife, his daughters and an actual elephant wielding a paintbrush he met on a trip to Thailand.

But a consumer seeing these unique labels is very likely already a Hope Family Wines fan.

“We sell those wines directly to our wine club members mostly,” Hope said. “Labels like these represent stories that need to be told, but you’re not usually going to see them in a grocery store.”

Hope said there’s a reason you won’t normally see labels like that on a retail shelf.

“Most retailers actually don’t like them,” he said of artistically adventurous labels. “Most traditional retailers just want the very standard white label. They’re very safe, and I think consumers can be scared to jump off the boat.

“Think about brands like Joel Gott or Josh. Why are they successful? If you go to a store, you just see a wall of wine, but people recognize the brand and feel comfortable with them.”

The Austin Hope brand features wines with estate grapes grown on the property on which the Hope family resides, and each of the wines has a label that tells a story.

“The Syrah and Grenache labels were elephant paintings from Thailand,” Hope recalled. “We were at an elephant sanctuary where we rode them and understood them, and at the end, we were down by the river outside Chiang Mai, and we had easels set up with canvases on them. They said, ‘Go grab a paintbrush palette and put colors on it. Give the brush to the elephant and make hand gestures to show it what you want to paint. We had these canvases at home and at the office at our winery, and thought it would be cool to put them on a label. So we transformed them into smaller versions.”

Pachyderms weren’t responsible for all of the label designs … the Hopes are an artistic bunch. The Mourvedre showcases an animal that is a combination of mammals, painted by one of his daughters when she was younger. Another was a daughter’s finger painting that adorns the GSM. And the label on the Mourvedre-Syrah blend depicts a blend of Gemini and Taurus … a nod to his family’s astrological signs that serves as his family’s crest.

If on a shelf at a store, a label may be the first thing the consumer notices. But a unique label may not necessarily lead them to purchase your wine.

“A label is probably the second most important thing,” Hope said. “The first is to make a high-quality wine that people are going to be pleased with.

“If I come up with a label that grabs your attention, what’s inside should please you, or else I wouldn’t feel good about that. We’re trying to evoke quality, luxury, and something that builds the brand, so it went through a ton of iterations. You have to evoke some sort of reaction from the consumer … make them feel something. Otherwise, why would they spend money?”

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