Omar Bakhshi, Creative Director Experience Design at OgilvyOne UK

Pieter Walser is a winemaker who does not follow the traditional rules of winemaking, his BLANKbottle winery bucks every wine trend in the book, from how it is produced to how it is sold. None of the labels on their wine has any information about the blend or grape.

However their focus on quality and homespun design is doing rather well…

The BLANKbottle ethos was born in 2004

In 2004 Pieter was trying to offload three cases of wine. As a struggling student most of his wine had been impounded while he figured out how to register for customs and excise.

Pieter was in a tight spot trying to get his wine business off the ground to fund his studies. He had just three cases of wine at his home — the rest was impounded while he was waiting for his license and trying to get tax registered.

A lady came to his house to buy some wine “any wine, anything but Shiraz — I dont like Shiraz”. Pieter opened a bottle for her to try, she was delighted with it and bought it all. He was lucky he had not got around to putting labels on them — they were all Shiraz.

From this moment on his focus became on focussing on the quality of the wine and stories that led to them. Take his Nothing to Declare 2014 for example it is a homage to the olden days, when leading winemakers from South Africa would travel to wine producing areas they admired.

Whenever they found a varietal not grown in South Africa they would smuggle the vines back into the country. The most popular technique being tying it to your leg, drop your trousers over the top and calmly walk through the NOTHING TO DECLARE section at the airport…

Their passion and dedication inspired Pieter to this day even, he has a tattoo of a vine around his lower leg.


Pause for a second and think about the effect reading that had on you

You have probably done a few things during that rather long preamble. Every time a story is told about the wine, its ethos and origin your mind has probably painted a story. You might have imagined what Pieter looks like, here he is.

The reason for this is simple, stories are powerful, we crave them, they help create meaning where none exists, put simply they trigger our ‘internal VR’ to create a powerful biological response in us — deep rooted responses that are irrational and unable to change.

"After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.”

In Pieter’s case it means people often pick his wine from a menu before any of the better known grapes, the house wine or even the dreaded ‘second cheapest’ most people go for.

We are currently experimenting with a wine menu to see the effect of pricing, use of narratives, even changing the simplicity of pronouncing the wine to see the actual impact the stories behind the wine have.


Stories and our internal VR

Different forms of information effect us very differently. Lets start with a salesman taking you through his sales brochure. The brochure has a list of bullet points outlining a specific product which you are encouraged to read, he might even read them out for you. In this case an area of the brain called the Wernicke’s area translates those words into meaning. It requires some effort on your part but thats it.

Upon hearing a story from that salesman however our brains change dramatically. Different areas of your sensory cortex are activated transporting you as the main character into the actual story, in essence creating an internal VR that is more compelling than any other medium.


What are ‘Neuronarratives’ and why should you care?

Narratives are essentially how the brain likes to organise vast quantities of information.

The primary objective of the brain isn’t to get 100% accuracy, it’s more important that the information is coherent and makes sense than to recall specific details from years gone by.

The response of the brain can vary wildly depending on how you construct your narrative. Create the narrative around the product story, the product information, creating an identifiable person, giving your product a personality and all of them will have a different effect.

By understanding why the brain processes stories in the ways it does, allows us to write them in ways it finds intoxicating.

Forget storytelling as a buzzword, figure out how to construct Neuronarratives — applying the principles of storytelling and the variables you can.

Want to hear more from Omar? Help him get to SXSW 2018 to talk neuronarratives by voting for his talk here.