Ellen Landis

Augmented Reality Branding for Wine – What’s it all about?

With so many distractions around us today and competition for our attention, how does one reach today’s wine customers, hold their attention and then earn their long-term loyalty? It’s an especially vital issue during the pandemic.

An emerging point of view suggests that augmented reality (AR) may be a viable solution to branding and engagement for a wide variety of both the wine curious and the wine connoisseur. Have you seen AR in action online, at a winery, retail store, bar or restaurant? In a nutshell, AR technology uses your phone to brings wine labels to life.

How does it work? Unlike QR codes, at which you can point your smartphone camera and a link pops up for you to click to view a website, for AR experiences, you typically need to download an AR wine label app onto your phone. From there, you point the phone at the label, and video content will spring to life from the label, seen through your phone screen.

It could deliver fanciful, entertaining content or enlightening, educational content, such as personal stories from a winemaker about his or her wines, winery, winemaking style, oak program, viticultural practices, vineyard management or appellation. AR apps are available via the Apple App store or Google Play store.

What can AR achieve? Wine industry marketing leaders find that it can broaden exposure, keep the brand in the mind of the customer and increase market share. During pandemic times, when consumers are shopping online and using their mobile devices significantly more than ever, a bit of entertainment is often welcome.

And augmented reality branding for wine seems to have merit (reported increases in sales for many brands support that notion). But is it a gimmick? Will it withstand the test of time? Will the masses pick up their phones and try to search for it on the internet, or spend time at a retail store seeking out AR labels?

In the wine world, Australia-based Treasury Wine Estates (TWE) was the first to introduce the concept in 2017 when it created The Living Wine Labels app to propel its 19 Crimes brand labels into action. This “living” label features depictions of real criminals who were accused of crimes centuries ago and sent to Australia.

It created quite a positive vibe, and sales soared. Since then, TWE broadened out with action labels across multiple brands. The Last Wine Co.’s The Walking Dead brand, with its Blood Red Wine and Cabernet Sauvignon AR labels, is action packed. Pointing the app at both labels side by side initiates a battle between a gunfighter and a zombie.

Additional Treasury Wine Estates brands offering AR content include Sonoma Valley’s Chateau St. Jean, where longtime talented winemaker Margo Van Staaveren shares a delightful wine-made-for-two story; Napa Valley’s Beringer Vineyard, whose label includes engaging winery chats between the Beringer brothers; Lindeman’s Gentleman’s Collection, offering a gentleman’s guide to AR by founder Dr. Henry Lindeman; and EMBRAZEN Wines, whose AR wine labels support the women’s movement by featuring extraordinary historical women.

In California, Rabble Wine Estates, established in 2010 by Paso Robles-based vineyard manager Rob Murray, was recently acquired by O’Neill Vintners & Distillers. In 2018, prior to the acquisition, Rob put his labels in motion with augmented reality technology. The Rabble Wine app unveils stories from mythology and apocalyptic events, including awakening scenes and sounds of the forces of nature.

O’Neill Vintners also launched its Line 39 AR app for its popular premium brand of Line 39 wines from California and hit the jackpot, achieving double-digit sales growth over multiple consecutive years. Its labels evoke summer dreams of vacationing across America’s 39th parallel.

Winerytale, another AR platform developed in Australia and launched in early 2020, aims to enhance the experience between customers and wineries. Once a winery is registered with the app, customers can hear the vintner’s unique story, tour the winery, access technical details, view property photo, and other details a winery chooses to share.

Winerytale has also introduced a new feature that allows those whose home base is in another country to translate the bottle details into their language. Third Aurora, the technical gurus behind the Winerytale platform, takes it a step further with technology to allow codeless AR scanning for other packaging types, including bottles, cans, boxes and more. This technology allows users an extremely easy way to add and update content such as text, images and videos at any time.

In Washington, Airfield Estates winery and estate vineyards, with brother-sister team Marcus Miller and Lori Stevens overseeing daily operations, has deep family roots in Yakima Valley, Washington state’s first established AVA. Airfield Estates’ three Washington tasting rooms are in Prosser, Woodinville and Vancouver, where the newest one opened last year.

Winemaker Travis Maple has tried the AR app, which is under consideration by their team.

“Both new and existing customers can benefit from AR technology with wine labels,” Maple said. “It can be a fun and educational experience. We can list anything from winemaking details to winery history, all by scanning a label.” There are other wineries in Washington and Oregon showing interest, so more AR labels may be rolling out across the Northwest soon.

You may wonder how many wine consumers will spend time in retail shops, bars or online searching for AR labels. I do, too. But seeing labels come to life is a pretty cool experience. I think it has merit and may eventually be more common than we might expect, particularly as new, tech- and media-savvy generations of wine consumers enter the market.

ELLEN LANDIS is a wine journalist, certified sommelier, Certified Wine Specialist, wine educator and professional wine judge. Reach Ellen at ellen@ellenonwine.com.

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