Sunday, November 11, 2007

Cognitive Marketing

Below is a picture of a bottle of "Gilbey's" brand gin.

Gilbey's 12

Gilbey's gin. Click for larger sizes.
It's an inexpensive brand, made in the Philippines. Not bad at all; it makes for a perfectly good Gin and Tonic. Of course, the expected marketing bits are all there: the English-sounding name (even with an "by the authority of" and the address of a presumably authentic London distiller); the British Racing Green label frame and cap; a serious-looking seal; the neck proudly declaring it's 12 years old...

12 years? Gin isn't aged - how can it be 12 years? It can't, of course. Look closely on the label and it's "a delicate blend of 12 natural ingredients". Which is a great way to exploit our cognitive peculiarities. We - our minds - are basically lazy. We try to do as little as possible. We only really notice something if it breaks our expectations, we don't reflect on or observe anything unless we get suspicious, and we only commit things to memory when we must.

As most people well know, whisky is aged in barrels, and the longer it is aged, the better it is - 12 year old whisky certainly implies a respectable quality. So whisky bottles all prominently display their age, often on the neck. And here comes another liquor bottle with a "12" on the neck. Our minds - we - don't make the extra effort to figure out that it's nonsense in this context. We just take a mental shortcut and assume that any liquor with "12" on the neck must be good and never bother with the inference that would show us the logic is not applicable.

It's a neat, well-executed bit of harmless sleight-of-hand, and both legally and morally beyond reproach. Really, the world around us abounds with this kind of associative mimicry. Just think of all the slow-poke family vans with "racing wheels" and body line details designed to remind you of a sports car; consumer sound equipment with metallic-seeming plastic and visible screwheads to make you think of high-end custom gear; or food packages with old-style lettering and an illustrated nonexistent farm or farmer to make you think of a family operation rather than a large-scale factory in some industrial park.

1 comment:

  1. That is interesting.

    I just happened to have a bottle of the stuff at home, and I had to check. On this (small) bottle, the "12" is on the bottle cap instead, but the end result is the same, I guess. Never really noticed the similarity.

    Also, the sticker on the front says "Produced in Great Britain". I don't think the British connection is nearly as shady as you make it out to be; the bar code, and Systembolaget's catalog, seem to agree that it is genuine. Your bottle is probably just made on license in the Philippines.


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