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The aura of Marilyn Monroe continues to raise eyebrows, this time in a sensuously designed boxed bottle of wine.

Although sales of beer have remained flat, the wine and spirits market are forecast to continue a vigorous five-percent annual growth rate, reaching $13 billion by 2007. At least some of the credit can be attributed to the launch of new products and the redesign of packaging by brands major, boutique, and everything in-between. Thus a case can be made for the importance of “up branding:” upscale products presented in ultrapremium packaging.

One example is Marilyn Wines, Inc., Napa, CA. Winery owners Robert and Donna Holder explain the intriguing intersection of Marilyn Monroe and their elegant wines: “Marilyn Monroe is one of the most sensuous and powerful icons of our era. To be able to ‘bring her home’ as a delicious Napa Valley wine in a stunning package that is highly collectible is an experience as unforgettable as Marilyn’s legend.”

Beginning with Marilyn Merlot in 1985, the combination of a playful idea and fine wine quickly caught on, earning critical plaudits and widespread popularity. Over the years, continuing acclaim from critics, collectors, and lovers of fine wine have led to the production of Marilyn Cabernet and Norma Jeane wines. And also the Velvet Collection, a proprietary blend of the winery’s finest red wine varietals, which debuted in October 2004. The winery offers a collectable boxed version for a 1.5-L magnum that should raise the eyebrows of even the most discerning wine aficionado.

Box construction

Searching for the right presentation of this iconic image, Marilyn Wines chose a rich, black Kivar 7 Llama—a 6.5-mil latex-saturated material—from FiberMark for the Velvet Collection’s base and lid. The material, which is foil hot-stamped in three colors, provides the finished box with a luxurious black leather-like appearance; the box for its October 2005 release of its 2003 vintage (shown) is provided by Advance Paper Box. The box’s base and lid are constructed of 100-pt chipboard. A foam insert laminated with a red velour-like material stabilizes the bottle. Advance developed a process to minimize the scores for a cleaner look. The screen-printed box’s die cuts highlight the 1.5-L magnum bottle’s label (see sidebar), which displays the famous photo of the then-unknown Norma Jeane Baker, the first Playboy magazine centerfold from its 1953 inaugural issue.

“The exterior surface of the box was a very important part of the design,” says Marilyn Wines co-owner Donna Holder. “It had to look rich and expensive and relate to the wine products; FiberMark gave us the look and feel we wanted. We had used a similar FiberMark material in an earlier release and our consumers, sales people and distributors loved the look, so we were delighted to use it for the Velvet Collection.”

The box is finished off with a dominant script red “M” flowing around a die-cut opening, allowing the consumer a glancing peek at the sensuous Marilyn label beneath. While the 2004 box was sealed, “we got smarter on our second one,” says Holder. This latest version is designed with what she describes as a shoe box style lid that lifts off easily, rather than a sealed box. Protection from inquisitive consumers is provided by an acrylic box that surrounds and seals the elegant product box.

The package retails for around $200, according to Holder. —Rick Lingle

See sidebar to this article: Revealing label

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