Iconic Visual Marketing in the Willamette Valley Wine Industry

Art and wine are linked and they have been for quite some time. Most commonly the link is exploited and explored in the form of “Artist Labels” with Chateau Mouton Rothschild being the most famous example of that genre of packaging.

What isn’t as common, however, is seeing a multi-year marketing or promotional effort unified by a single artist’s touch. When rare times when done well it delivers a compelling vision that works as remarkably effective marketing. The collaboration of the Willamette Valley Wineries Association and John Fisher’s art is a perfect example.

For a number of years now the WVWA has commissioned Fisher to produce posters for various promotional events it produces throughout the year including its Pinot In The City tour, Memorial Weekend in Wine Country and Wine Country Thanksgiving.

Fisher’s artworks, used both as printed posters and in an online form, are beautiful renditions with a consistent approach that is a nod to the quasi-art deco style of travel posters popular in the 1930s and 1940s. Each poster’s theme is cleverly rendered to promote the particular event’s theme, yet maintains a consistent rugged, “ruralish”, anti-glitz style that works with the image and reality of the Willamette Valley wine culture.

Fisher himself is both an artist as well as a graphic designer at his firm FisherCarlsonCo in Portland. He began his work with the Willamette Valley Wineries Association nearly 15 years ago and his various creations for the association continue to be collected by consumers and those in the industry.

The Willamette Valley Wineries Association calls Fisher’s work for them “iconic”. Now there’s a word that gets used far too casually these days. Very few things can legitimately be termed “iconic” and it’s for this reason that the word is frequently deployed to elevate imagery or people who probably don’t deserve to be called anything like an “icon”. Yet the way Fisher’s design work and artistry has come to be associated with the Willamette Valley and its wines and the way the Willamette Valley Wineries Association has deployed Fisher’s work in support of its mission justifies the use of “iconic” to describe his imagery and design.

Washington Monument and Reflecting Pool 1848-1888 Washington, DC, USA

Here’s the lesson for marketers. Just as an organization’s logo is carefully rendered in order to serve as a symbol for the organization, its purpose and its mission, so too can a body of design work if consistently produced in a specific style, serve to represent an organization’s mission and raison d’etre. However, it’s a long game promotional effort that is very hard to sustain primarily because it’s so difficult to find or develop a compelling design scheme that can do so much heaving promotional lifting and at the same time inspire admiration for the design’s inherent quality. When done successfully, it looks like Fisher’s work for the WVWA.

The team of Fisher & WVWA has accomplished this with 15+ years of consistent, compelling, beautiful design by Fisher on behalf of the Willamette Valley wineries.

It’s interesting that despite living in an Instagram World where imagery has taken on such a primary role in our marketing and promotion, we actually come across so little imagery that successfully addresses so many marketing needs.

You can practically count these kinds of ongoing, successive, consistent design/promotional efforts on one hand: The Dewar’s Interview ads, the “Got Milk” campaign, Absolute Vodka ads, Apple’s “Think Different” campaign, the Marlboro Man campaign probably rank in that pantheon.

Part of my admiration for the WVWA promotional work with Fisher goes beyond the way it has been deployed to advance a fairly sophisticated messaging campaign. But it also derives from the fact that I’ve always enjoyed the style of design captured in Fisher’s work for the WVWA. The nostalgic quality of the design speaks to me.

If it speaks to you too, the good news is that you can acquire posters of the various images that Fisher has created for the Willamette Valley wineries. You can find many of them here.

3 Responses

  1. Peter Ricci - May 24, 2019


    Very nice article, the WVWA has taken a strong approach to marketing, it has paid off. More wineries and AVA associations across the country need to do the same. It is important to work with people who specialize in beverages, wine in particular, to reach out to potential customers along with existing customers. Hope the Valley is all you have hope for in your move.

    Pete Ricci

  2. Jim Bernau - May 25, 2019

    Great piece. Thank you Tom.

  3. Vanessa Hadick - June 11, 2019

    Thank you Tom, and welcome to Oregon!

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