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Looks Matter When It Comes to Buying Vodka

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We’re told not to judge a book by its cover, but it turns out people very much judge a vodka by its bottle. Marketing firm Affinnova recently ran a “design audit” on 12 well-known vodka brands including Absolut, Belvedere, Ciroc, Grey Goose, Ketel One, New Amsterdam, Pinnacle, Skyy (limited-run bottle), Smirnoff, Stolichnaya, Svedka and Tito's. The team found that bottle shape and label design really do make a difference when it comes to customer appeal.

To conduct the study, Affinnova set up dual grocery aisles, one with nothing but brand names written on index cards and the other with the actual bottles on the shelves. The result was interesting but not all that surprising for the relatively neutral spirit category: When it comes to vodka, package outshines taste. According to the firm, several studies have shown that consumers become attached to a vodka brand based on marketing and advertising alone. And blind taste tests have shown that even self-proclaimed brand loyalists can’t pick their favorite vodka out of a lineup.

So, which vodkas stood out and which ones fell flat? Svedka and Pinnacle’s curvaceous, broad-shouldered, bright blue bottles and striking white text garnered the most overall eye time. Absolut, on the other hand, with its clear bottle and bold blue text (essentially the reverse of Svedka and Pinnacle’s design), did not perform well. Those who saw the bottle perceived it as less modern and sexy than the others. Interestingly, the control group who only saw the brand names on index cards responded positively to Absolut.

Belvedere, conversely, did not get much positive attention based on the name alone. But when consumers saw the bottle, those opinions were much more effusive. The Belvedere bottle got the highest marks for packaging. The brand’s signature mansion logo may have something to do with that, as the study showed that consumers are consistently drawn to the center of alcohol bottles where bold graphics have a chance to steal attention. Plus, who doesn’t want to drink vodka from a fancy mansion?

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