Liquor is marketed as magic. If you drink Disaronno on the rocks, goes the ad, you'll instantly feel like that hot bartender, or that hot lady at the bar. Whichever one, you'll feel hot, is the point.
Turns out the ads don't stop there. A new study from the market research firm Affinnova suggests that liquor bottles also act as potent billboards, able to alter our conception of a brand's "personality."
The study split 500 U.S.-based vodka drinkers into two equal groups. Half judged the personalities of vodkas based on the brand's name, and half based on its bottle.
In the mix were Absolut, Belvedere, Smirnoff, Ketel One, Skyy (using a limited run bottle), Tito’s, Stolichnaya, Svedka, Grey Goose, Ciroc, Pinnacle and New Amsterdam. The two groups ranked each brand in categories like "sexy," "genuine," "fun" and "celebratory."
The respondents dealing with brand name alone deemed Absolut the most "sexy" -- not surprising, considering the sophisticated ad war the Swedish company has waged for decades. But respondents looking at its bottle -- which, while iconic, is also relatively squat and covered in text -- ranked the brand sixth sexiest, out of twelve.
The winner of this sexiness contest? Skyy, based on its stark cobalt blue bottle.
The brand on the left is not as sexy.
In a statement, Affinnova explained the gap in the two assessments on complacency on the part of older brands. Established brands state their case to the public before said public is pushed up against a bar, making an order. "Up and coming" companies (Affinnova cites Belvedere and Pinnacle), however, are more likely to try a last-minute pitch from the shelf. And apparently they're better at it. Absolut's bottle lost the titles liquor marketers tend to chase -- "fun," "celebratory," "sexy." Meanwhile, the mansion on the Belvedere bottle impressed respondents, who called the imaginary house "stately, regal and classy," according to the study, and gave the brand the title of most "intelligent."
Another winning visual element, according to the study? The word "imported," which most respondents singled out as appealing. For domestic brands, there's really no way around this one. It could be why Tito's, generally regarded as a solid American vodka, scored last in all but two personality categories.
Of course, the study's arbitrary winners and losers only reinforce what consumers should know from decades of performing miserably at vodka taste tests: we're poor judges of our most popular spirit. Maybe we should drink with blindfolds on?