Warhol on Wine Sales


I’m convinced the consumer world revolves around how cool things look. But after having the same experience twice in the grocery store, I’ve noticed that no matter how great a wine label looks, placement plays a big part in selling the juice. 

Last week I ran smack dab into an oversized pyramid of Meridian chardonnay cases while shopping. Each box sported a vivid painting of a sailboat in summery hues. My OOOH-dometer shot up to 120. Cool! Since wine wasn’t on my shopping list and I’m not writing a blog about supermarket displays, I deftly steered around the gargantuan promotion. A week later I came face to face with the same pyramid and the OOOH-dometer went off again. This time I had to buy the wine. That brushy painting did the trick. The tropical colors drew me in. I was reminded of sunset sailing on warm summer nights.


Funny thing, when I brought the Meridian home and took a look at the package, I wasn’t as impressed. Love the boat painting, but the small label, while still attractive, just doesn’t carry the oomph of the full painting. The label is glossy and smooth in texture and looks inexpensive. It matches Meridian’s under $10 price point and uncomplicated view of life. But then there’s the customized typography used for the Meridian name. Stately, yet surprisingly unremarkable. Where the display stopped me in my tracks, I might have passed the bottle by in a standard liquor department lineup. It was the oversized pyramid of breezy art that got me going in the first place. The other elements of the label don’t seem to reflect that vitality.

I went to the web to find out more. The Meridian website did not show the latest labels, so I called the Foster’s Wine Group, proprietor of the brand. A helpful person in the public relations department told me the new branding has been out about 12 months, and they are just getting around to a website update. The new series features paintings by artist Patrick McFarlin, known for his vibrant, contemporary style. It was commissioned specifically for Meridian. The pyramid display would not have been part of a corporate marketing campaign, more likely the brainchild of the regional sales manager. I wonder if he was inspired by Andy Warhol in his pop art period. Warhol’s serial series of American iconic imagery such as Campbell’s Soup can, Coca Cola’s bottle and the dollar bill had a huge impact on the way America looks at art. Likewise, the effect of repeating the sailboat painting on a mountain of boxes burned the Meridian brand exponentially into my brain. I asked the public relations person if the new branding had any effect on sales. Her answer: 

“ There are too many factors to tell. Getting the product placed in a location that’s easy for consumers to grab makes the biggest difference.”

Hmm, that’s a little humbling for us design types to hear. Maybe it IS all about the sales manager and placement in the retail environment….Still, I have to think that the beauty of that painting had a teensy bit to do with it.

I returned to the same store the following week to get a snapshot of the display. It had been replaced by an ugly array of 4th of July paraphernalia. A blob of barbecue baggage, beer and beach towels clogged my senses. Definitely not an homage to Warhol’s serial series, it failed to pry any money from my purse.

I’m going to continue to believe that art and good design make a difference.


On right: We re-created the pyramid of Meridian boxes. On left: One of Warhol's Campbell's Soup paintings, in case you're too young to know about them.

On right: We re-created the pyramid of Meridian boxes. On left: One of Warhol's Campbell's Soup paintings, in case you're too young to know about them.


A special thanks to Foster’s Wine Group.

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