Why image matters — a case study

Raptor Ridge Winery Label: Before and After

Raptor Ridge Winery Label: Before and After

“Freshening” an existing design is a task that often gets placed on the back burner indefinitely. Many of the reasons companies give for postponing this seem reasonable at first: “we don’t have the time,” “we don’t have the budget,” and “we don’t want to risk losing brand recognition” are among the most common.

But the real reason is usually: “we don’t want to mess with this right now.”

While preserving brand recognition is a healthy concern, it’s not enough to justify inaction. You may see some short-term savings, but the risks of letting an aging design go on too long are far greater, and can even hurt your bottom line.

Luckily that wasn’t the case for Raptor Ridge Winery, located in Oregon’s Willamette Valley region. Founded in 1995 by winemaker Scott Shull, the business gets its name from many families of raptors—such as Red-tailed Hawks, Kestrels, Sharp-shinned Hawks and owls—that share the winery’s 27-acre estate. The raptors also influenced the label designs for the company’s wines, each of which features a specific feather and color scheme inspired by one of its namesake birds.

When Whole Brain Creative started working with the company about ten years ago, the label branding was already established. At the time it was still fresh and new, so we focused on other strategies and designs, changing the labels only slightly each year.

Even with an aging label design, Raptor Ridge has been quite successful. Many of their vintages are consistently rated in the 90+ range by industry publications like Wine Enthusiast and Wine and Spirits, and popular vintages frequently sell out. Last year, however, several key distributors expressed concern that while the wine was continually improving, the labels on the bottles were staying the same. Hints were dropped that a more sophisticated-looking label would help the winery attract more attention—and get more space on store shelves.

Needless to say, this feedback quickly sent label redesign to the top of Raptor Ridge’s “burning fire” to-do list. With only a month to make the changesbefore the first new vintages were bottled in August, the design team needed to find the right solution quickly.

Proprietors Scott and Annie Shull made good use of the time, starting with feedback from industry peers, distributors, and customers to find out what they felt was integral to the brand. It soon became clear that the feathers were a key element that needed to stay. The design team tried alternate approaches, including illustrations and specimen-style line drawings. Ultimately, however, the photograph still proved to be the best choice, both for attracting attention and supporting ongoing recognition of the brand. This determined, we put the focus on the feather by losing the big black box.

To give the label a more “artisanal” look, we changed the paper stock and added a scratchy, burned-looking edge to imply an old-world feel. We were more cautious with the logo, deciding we risked leaving too many customers behind if we changed both the label and the logo at the same time. We settled for a standard logo in plain black ink, eliminating the drop shadow to give the logo a cleaner look. Finally, the label elements were rearranged to focus the viewer’s attention on the vintage year and the name: “Oregon Pinot Noir” (a highly-sought varietal we were eager to highlight).

Vintages featuring the redesign just started hitting the shelves last November, but the new labels have already received a strong positive response from distributors and customers. Thanks to a quick response to market feedback and a timely redesign, Raptor Ridge looks set to continue its proven track record of growth and success without a pause.

is your brand overdue for a pick-me-up?

Even the world’s most successful and recognizable brands are reviewed on a regular basis to make sure they stay fresh and effective. Changes are often so subtle that consumers aren’t aware of the tweaks, even as they maintain or deliver significant improvements to the bottom line.

Do you have a design that’s been “coasting” for a while? Is your organization making branding decisions simply because “that’s the way we’ve always done it?” Whole Brain Creative can help you evaluate your current brand identity and make certain it’s still working as hard as possible. Call or email us for a no-obligation consultation: 503.325.4485 or [email protected].

Special thanks to Michele Lytle and the team at CCL Label in Portland, Oregon for making this project a success.

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