Located in the Northern coast of California, Sonoma County is one of the most well-known wine-grape-growing, wine-producing, and wine-consuming regions not just in the United States but around the world. Boasting 13, the most in the U.S., American Viticultural Areas — official regions with boundaries defined by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau and the United States Department of the Treasury — Sonoma County is home to 1,800 grape growers and 350 wineries across 60,000-plus acres of awesome land. But nowadays pretty much every city and country has its very own “Wine Country” and Sonoma County was feeling the competition or, put more officially, “there is more pressure than ever before to strengthen the presence of Sonoma County and its AVAs among world-class wine regions” so three of the county’s leading organizations — Sonoma County Vintners, Sonoma County Winegrape Commission, and Sonoma County Tourism Bureau — banded together to create an official destination brand as well as a national campaign to “build awareness through communications and promotion that will keep the Sonoma County brand visible and relevant, ensuring that every winery, grower, and our region as a whole benefits from the power of our brand.” The identity has been designed by Landor.
The brand mark, which is in the style of a stencil or stamp designed to convey the unique craftsmanship at the heart of grape growing and winemaking in Sonoma County, has been approved by the Boards of all three organizations to adopt as their organization logos.
— Press Release [PDF]
The Sonoma County logo’s rustic brown color and stencil style recall the unique craftsmanship at the heart of winemaking. To reinforce its origins in stencil designs, the logo always appears at an angle.
— Identity Guidelines [PDF]
“Through our brand essence work, we defined the character of Sonoma County as genuine, independent, and adventurous,” said Honore Comfort, executive director of Sonoma County Vintners. “Likewise, our core audience can be described as ‘experience seekers’ — people who are confident, independent thinkers with natural curiosity and a sense of discovery, who like to try new things. This is the audience we want to reach, and we feel like Sonoma County is a great match for them.”
— Press Release [PDF]
At first it’s hard to take seriously that Sonoma County really needs a destination brand and an awareness campaign — do luscious sceneries, luxury spas, fancy wineries where men tie their sweaters around their neck, really need an awareness campaign? This is the sarcastic in me, but it’s all relative, and when you have competition from places like Niagara-on-the-Lake Wine Country or Texas Wine Country that are either destinations of their own or simply keep people where they are rather than travel to the edge of the U.S. then, yeah, I guess a brand would be nice. And this new Sonoma County identity is nice. But nothing more. The concept — a stencil you would find on a grape crate or a wine barrel — isn’t groundbreaking but the execution is somewhat interesting, mostly because of the good typeface selection. The distressed look works at a basic level, although I don’t see why the distress wouldn’t also affect the type and not just the border. In application the logo is meant to be like a stamp or seal of approval, so the stencil approach plays well. The real challenge is getting all those thousands of grape growers and hundreds of wineries to adopt the logo, otherwise you might just want to wrap your sweater around your neck and take your swirling elsewhere.