A Three-Tiered Approach Gets This Winery A Seat Back at the Table

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Northern Vineyards Winery celebrated its 40th anniversary by hitting the refresh button on its packaging — resulting in a double-digit sales growth. One of the oldest wineries in Minnesota, Northern Vineyards is owned by the members of the Minnesota Winegrowers Cooperative and uses only locally grown, cold-hardy grape varieties. In 2017, with over 100 national and international awards under its belt, this small, historic winery enlisted the help of the Minneapolis-based creative firm IMAGEHAUS to update its look.

Jay Miller, Creative Director and Principal at IMAGEHAUS, said Northern Vineyards’ sales had grown stale over the last two decades, so they understood the need to invest in an update. “A new General Manager had just joined the team and brought with him years of experience in the industry, and first-hand knowledge of the fact that on the shelves, wine lives and breathes by its label,” said Miller.

To fully tell the uniqueness of this brand’s story and uncork its competitive edge, IMAGEHAUS ultimately developed a new logo, a new identity, a new three-tier labeling system, and a new tagline.

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The previous logo and label were silk screened onto the bottles, which Miller says was not the ideal production method for the intricate artwork and often resulted in additional print runs, additional time, and additional costs.

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The new logo mark represents how Northern Vineyards truly stands apart. The grape cluster speaks to wine enthusiasts while the arrow and Northern Pine pay homage to its location. This new mark set the stage for all consumer touch points and IMAGEHAUS’s three-tiered packaging solution.

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The three-tier concept was born from the need to accomplish a lot, with a little. “Budget is always a challenge. We had to be smart and thoughtful in defining a long-term branding strategy and an immediate marketing strategy, both working together toward a goal to increase sales,” said Miller.

To develop this strategy IMAGEHAUS used the “retail 101” idea of giving the customer a good, better, best option. This concept was used to direct the label design and paper specification for each of the vineyard’s collections.

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The Main Street tier is a collection of four wines at a $15-$16 price point. The label uses the same artwork, with varying colors to differentiate the flavors.

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“The labels feature a strong geographic reference to the home of Northern Vineyards. It’s designed to align with the idea that these are wines people might purchase as a gift or a memory of their visit to the area,” said Miller. The smooth surface of ESTATE LABEL® No. 1 by NEENAH Packaging was used to complement the sleekness of the design.

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The Flora Collection is named for, and designed to represent, the wild flowers that grow in the northern region.

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Because this tier is a step up, with a $17-$18 price point, each flavor features a different custom designed label.

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ESTATE LABEL® No. 3, Felt was used to add a layer of touch to the natural design elements.

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Gold foil was added to the design of the Laura’s Laughter label, indicating that this $28 bottle of wine is the vineyard’s top tier.

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IMAGEHAUS specified the rich, tactile quality of ESTATE LABEL, Laid. According to Miller, “This is the best example of the ‘good, better, best’ strategy, aligned with design solutions, reflecting the price the customer is willing to pay. Once the new label launched, Laura’s Laughter went from their lowest selling bottle to their number one selling bottle.”

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Northern Vineyards is one of the last that truly makes wine from grapes grown in the North Country. “They are proud of this and proud that they were created as a cooperative by the grape growers themselves. We used this idea to develop their new tagline ‘vine to table.’ This story is told on the back label of every bottle of wine they create,” said Miller. 

According to Dennis Youngquist, GM at Northern Vineyards, the IMAGEHAUS rebranding, and three-tier concept has proven a huge success, with bottle sales at the winery up 41% since the launch. “Surdyk’s tells us that we are now the best-selling Minnesota wine brand. We’ve always tasted good, we just didn’t look the part,” said Youngquist.