The International Review of Wine Packaging and Aesthetics, Vol. 12. *Special double-dog edition! *

Posted by Rob Walker on February 22, 2007
Posted Under: Reviews,The Designed Life,Wine Packaging

Yard Dog
Petit Verdot-Cabernet-Melboc blend; South Eastern Australia
$13 (Savannah)

Bulldog Red
Syrah-Grenache-Mourvedre blend; Paso Robles, California
$18.50 (Savannah)

[Note: This is the twelfth installment in a regular Murketing feature. For previous installments and an explanation, go here.]

Yes, that’s right, it’s a special double-shot of wine label aesthetics today, as we assess two dog-themed labels.

First up: Yard Dog.

As you can see, the label depicts a frightening, teeth-bearing dog, who looks starved, angry, miserable, and dangerous. This poor beast is juxtaposed against jaunty polka dots and some newsprint, in a collage effect. It’s quite an image. Particularly for a wine label.

It caught E’s attention the store, and resulted a rare instance of wanting to read the backmatter: “I really wanted some information.”

“Yard dog, every street has one,” it says. “The once beloved family pet that has gone feral, a canine prisoner condemned….” It goes on to make a comparison between these sad creatures and allegedly “neglected” wine varieties that, if we follow correctly, this brand is saving. “Beware of the Yard Dog.”

While “fairly horrifed by the description,” E bought the bottle, because, of course, we have this project going, etc.

Anyway, R. and E are largely in agreement that the whole thing is a bit grotesque. Why a tortured-looking animal as your mascot? Why suggest that every “yard dog” looks like this? (Our dog lives indoors, but our neighbors, for example, have some docile, friendly, well-cared-for animals who happen to live outside much of the time, and I suspect they’d be offended.) Finally, does every street in Australia really have a dog that looks like this wandering about? If so, says, E, “I’m not going.”

Having said that, we admit that it’s a pretty attractive design. But it’s much more appropriate for an art gallery than a consumer product. By and large, most people don’t want to think about suffering animals while enjoying a fine meal. We suspect. (Or hope.)
The bottom line, in our view, is that comparing wine varieties to animal abuse seems, you know, really crass. Says E: “I won’t be buying any more of this. For that reason.”

Regarding the actual wine: Fine.

Next up: Bulldog Red.

R. bought this one, because he knows that E is crazy about bulldogs. (And R. is crazy about E, so there you have it.) Clearly this wine is aiming very squarely at precisely that customer: The person attracted to pictures of bulldogs.

Now, the interesting sidenote here is that the IRoWPaA happens to be based in the state of Georgia. The bulldog is a rather iconic figure in Georgia, at least among those who are supporters of the University of Georgia football team. The team is called the Bulldogs, and its mascot is a bulldog, named Uga.

Both R. and E originally assumed, in fact, that this wine must somehow be a local product. Aside from the fact that bulldog on the bottle is white-furred, like Uga, the background of the label is a color not unlike that worn by the UGA football team. Plus the typeface in which Bulldog Red is rendered has a sort of sports-y look about it.

But no. The bottle says it’s a California product. Although the backmatter does mention tailgating. Hmmm. Certainly there can’t be anywhere else in the country where a retailer would have the moxie to charge $18.49 for this (screw-top!) wine, is there?

Anyway, clearly the actual design here is not nearly as compelling as the yard dog. In fact neither R. nor E can come up with anything particularly nice to say about it, except that there’s a picture of a bulldog on it, which is pleasing.

E summarizes: “This celebrates the dog. The other one humiliates the dog. Who doesn’t like looking at a big old bulldog face with his teeth jutting out? He’s cute. I’d give him a scratch.”

So: While it’s an inferior design, it’s simultaneously more pleasing to look at.

Regarding the actual wine: So-so, and, obviously, a total ripoff at that price.

Further diversion may be found at MKTG Tumblr, and the Consumed Facebook page.

Reader Comments

The Bulldog design looks better suited to a microbrew.

The copy for the Yard Dog bottle sounds very strange. If they believe something worth saving, should they tell us to beware of it? Better to say we should love it — presumably they want us to love the wine, right? I assume they are hoping to create a sense of irony in loving something scary/unknown.

Written By Cindy on February 22nd, 2007 @ 12:59 pm

Cindy’s right: that Bulldog IS more suited to a microbrew, if only a fake one. The Plank Rd Brewery (aka Miller) makes Red Dog beer.

(I mistook it for Red Hook Ale at the store and got some–once.)

The Yard Dog ooks like something from one of the old Quiznos “spong monkeys” ads.

Written By chip on February 22nd, 2007 @ 3:30 pm
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