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Casa Girelli employed Saatchi & Saatchi to restyle its Canaletto brand. Clinton Cawood charts the creation of a modern masterpiece

Developing a new wine brand is difficult enough, but updating the image of an existing brand – with a significant international following – poses a different set of challenges.

For a brand like Canaletto, with its broad product offering, extensive customer base around the world and loyal consumers, it is not easy to strike a balance between tradition and modernity, between the old and the new. There are always new customers and consumers to win over, but Canaletto is not a new brand with nothing to lose.

So when the time came to refresh the Canaletto range of wines, Casa Girelli boldly engaged the X division of Saatchi & Saatchi, an agency that is admittedly famous in advertising and branding circles, but not immediately associated with the wine trade. This move paid dividends, as the Saatchi & Saatchi team brought a refreshing and novel approach to the role.

In focus
The first task for the Saatchi & Saatchi team was to undertake some consumer research with the brand’s target audience. This was identified as 25- to 45-year-old women who drink wine at least once a week. Two focus groups were held which centred on issues particular to Canaletto, such as the perception of the existing packaging, as well as perceptions of Italian wine in general. The research also investigated the decision-making process involved when these consumers purchase wine.

The groups agreed that Italian wine is a classic and safe option, yet country of origin was not usually the most important criteria when making a decision in the wine aisle. Most times, the colour and grape variety of the wine was the first decision, followed by considerations of price. Among those with less wine knowledge, blends were unanimously refused. One respondent commented, “Whisky’s been teaching us that single malt is better than blended Scotch.”

As for Canaletto’s label, the existing painting of an Italian scene by the painter of the same name was not well received. One focus group participant from the UK commented, “It’s as if we put Big Ben on the bottle”.

A number of concepts for Canaletto’s new identity were then proposed, some emphasising balance, and others the surfeit of sunlight in Italy. In the end, the enduring perception of the innate sense of Italian style prevailed. One comment from the focus group, for example, was, “I would want to buy a wine that Italians would drink and appreciate.”

Look down under
This conclusion satisfied managing director Stefano Girelli. “We need to identify the brand as Italian”, he explained, “otherwise it is just another brand.” The concept of Italian style, indulgence and quality was therefore the concept that informed not only the subsequent design process, but Canaletto’s future brand identity as well.

This identity, then, would be an ambitious one. Girelli used the example of Gallo, that a large percentage of consumers believe is an Italian brand based on its name and branding. An opening existed, therefore, to be the definitive Italian wine brand. “We have to identify ourselves as Italians, or we’re just another brand,” says Girelli.

Later, at a sales meeting held earlier this year, UK sales manager, Jonathan Farrar, compared the new face of Canaletto to wine packaging from a country well known for its ability to reflect its identity. “It’s Australian branding,” he said.

Get the look
In the design process, as with everything else, it was decided that this should be an evolution as opposed to an outright betrayal of the old packaging, for the benefit of existing consumers. A number of more creative and unconventional designs were therefore rejected in favour of a label that updated and evolved the existing one.

A number of ideas were also rejected for practical reasons, such as wine regulations about the use of certain words, or the production cost of some of the more extreme suggestions, such as a minimal label with the majority of information presented on a separate label tied to the neck of the bottle.

It was finally decided to retain the Canaletto painting as well, but to modernise it. This would contribute to making the appearance “more Milan and less Venice”. In addition to an updated image, the existing “Winemaker’s Collection” line would be replaced by “Autentico Italiano”, making the range’s origin unmistakable.

In detail
With all of the major considerations decided upon, a number of finer details remained to be hammered out. In-depth discussions were held with design experts from Saatchi & Saatchi over such details as fonts, label size, and the right colour-coding for the various varietals in the range.

On the final label design, the painting has been decreased in size and has been given new colours to modernise it. The updated logo font is “elegant and feminine, as well as readable from the shelf”. Reminiscent of its predecessor, it is also very modern. 

Designers were also charged with creating a new carton, as well as packaging for the company’s bag-in-box offering. This presented an opportunity, as there is more surface space in this medium, which “exposes the brand in a whole different way” says Girelli.

There are almost endless considerations when dealing with a brand of this scope. As part of the update, the range itself has also been fully revised. And new branding has naturally led to an opportunity for new advertising. With the new-look Canaletto already rolling out around the world, the attention to detail by everyone involved looks likely to pay dividends.

© db May 2007

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