Signatures on wine bottles shown to influence Ontario shoppers: Brock research

New research from Brock University’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute indicates a winemaker’s label signature can supercharge sales and impart value to consumers.

Brock Professor of Marketing and Consumer Psychology Antonia Mantonakis and University of Ottawa’s Keri Kettle recently published “Look for the Signature: Using Personal Signatures as Extrinsic Cues Promotes Identity-Congruent Behaviour” in the Journal of Business Research.

Understanding that humans use signatures when committing themselves to significant obligations such as marriages or mortgages, Mantonakis and Kettle explored whether that same perceived value is reflected in consumer products boasting a signature.

Antonia Mantonakis with crossed arms and warm smile staring at the camera in a hallway with research posted on one of the walls behind her.

Antonia Mantonakis, Brock Professor of Marketing and Consumer Psychology.

The researchers conducted a series of seven studies that looked at how adding a personal signature to in-store signage and product labels affects product evaluations and sales, and examined the identities, affiliations, causal relationships and associations (or disassociations) between consumers and products.

“It is an exciting area of study that can be a windfall for businesses, especially winemakers, marketers, advocacy groups and even curious or savvy shoppers,” said Mantonakis. “One of the great factors we found was that businesses needed a strong understanding of their target audiences when making the decision about whether or not to include a signature on their product.”

The studies involved monitoring wine sales that highlighted a winemaker signature and sales of the same bottle of wine without the signature. Results demonstrated the presence of a signature can boost sales as much as 500 per cent if an Ontarian is purchasing an Ontario wine.

Moreover, bottles of wine with a signature were found to have a higher value in terms of quality compared to the same bottle of wine without a signature.

“The signature has its limits though,” Mantonakis said. “While we might see that a signature on a bottle of Ontario Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA) wine can drive retail sales for local consumers in Ontario and create positive value associations between consumer and product, it won’t happen for everyone, especially those who are travelling here from elsewhere and may not have a shared identity of being ‘from Ontario.’”

The results of the studies help define the relationship between consumers, the value associated with a signature, awareness of product and how a signature can establish or modify value of a product.

“Ultimately, our research indicates the effect of adding personal signatures depends more on the identity of the target consumers rather than the identity of the signer,” Mantonakis said, adding businesses should first consider their audience before introducing a signature to any label.

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