We’ve all seen it: Award stickers printed on just about every wine bottle label in the bottle shop. There’s certainly a reason that beverage distributors like to promote awards won on their drink labels.
In this article, we’ll not just break down the power of award stickers on wine, spirit and gin labels, but also how to use such promotion properly and effectively.
Do award stickers make a difference?
Consumers tend to be rather impressed and influenced when they see a product or service has won an award. It not only acts as a signal of the product’s quality but also acts as reassurance when trying to choose between different options. Studies conducted by the Rochester Institute of Technology (published under the paper How the Academy Awards Influence Audience Perception) goes to great length to describe how an Oscar nomination positively affects the impact and perception of a particular movie.
So, if it’s not just about wine bottle labels does the same principle apply to beverage labels at all? Does the inclusion of an award sticker make a difference to sales or consumer choices?
According to the International Wine Challenge (IWC), their various award stickers–when compared to bottles of the same size and type–can cause a highly significant increase in sales: up to over 10 times the amount! Those bottles with gold and silver IWC stickers saw sales skyrocket between 200% and 700%!
However, before you run off to slap an award label on every bottle, there is a healthy bit of scepticism in the market as well. Thanks to research such as that done by the IWC, the market has become saturated with ‘prestigious’ wine and alcohol awards. The explosion in the number of award stickers on drink labels has intuitively led to consumers becoming at best confused as to what an award means and unable to separate the real, authentic awards from the inferior ones. At worst they become sceptical and doubtful of any ‘award sticker’ they see.
A recent study was conducted to find out the effects of exactly this. (Neuninger, R., Mather, D., and Duncan, T. 2017. Consumer’s scepticism of wine awards: A study of consumers’ use of wine awards. Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services 35: 98-105.)
The general conclusion and consensus is that prestigious award stickers on wine bottle labels and other beverages can certainly increase sales. But stickers from unknown or non-reputable awards can actually have a negative effect.
Award stickers on drink labels – understanding how they works
Bearing the above caveat in mind, let’s dive into how and why prestigious award stickers are powerful inclusions on wine, spirit and gin labels.
The paradox of choice
The bittersweet nature of our capitalist economy has seen our supermarkets and liquor stores flooded with different options. While this first world problem is one not to be moaned about, it does make choosing one product over another more difficult. Barry Schwartz, a psychologist, calls this too-many-options related paralysis “the paradox of choice”. When a consumer notices a prestigious award sticker on a wine label, they may find this signal of quality helpful in guiding their choice and narrowing their options.
The modern consumer isn’t just overwhelmed by the amount of choices, but by the speed with which the decision needs to be made. Unlike expert wine connoisseurs who will recognise and know which award stickers indicate prestigious achievements and accomplishments, your regular shoppers are often rushed, pressed for time and speeding. That’s why eye-catching branding, shiny gold award stickers and other forms of advertising are important ways in which consumers unconsciously narrow down their choices.
In all aspects of our lives, whether it’s finding a plumber or choosing a spirit, we prioritise the referrals and testimonies of friends and families. If we hear from a trusted friend that a particular bottle of wine is very good, we are more likely to choose that bottle of wine. An award sticker on a wine or gin label ultimately aims to function in the same way. To the non-discerning consumer with no other testimonies to work off, seeing a shiny gold sticker on a beverage bottle will act as a substitute referral to reassure them that their drink of choice is a good purchase.
The effect on taste
Perhaps the most interesting, and possibly alarming, of the effects and power of award stickers is the change in taste perceptions. From the rational viewpoint, the fact that a wine bottle label has an award sticker on it should not influence one’s enjoyment of the wine one way or the other. But the truth is, according to Professor Bodo Lang from Auckland University, that our taste perceptions will actually improve when we think that the wine is award winning. The better we think the beverage is the more likely we are to become repeat consumers and buy more. It may be a quirk of our psychology, but it is nevertheless a testament to the power of award stickers.
Using award stickers ethically
The industry, in recognition of the confusing, misleading and overabundant nature of many award stickers on beverage labels, has actually put together a Code of Practice for the display of awards.
From a regulatory point of view, all wine bottle labels featuring an award won must comply with this code. Breaching the roles can be costly reputationally and financially.
To help you avoid any ethical quandaries and unintentionally dishonest practices, here are some tips for harnessing the power of award stickers ethically:
- Only display awards won in a fair and independent competition.
- Ensure you are able to substantiate and prove any award claims.
- Make sure your display of awards comply with the particular regulations of international markets if you’re selling overseas.
- Avoid all misleading content and stickers.
- Always display the name and year of the award clearly.
- Do not put collective awards on individual bottles.
- Avoid using other stickers and discs that look similar to the type used to indicate awards.
- Read and follow the Code of Practice.
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