Brand experience is not blind

Christmas is coming. Although the festivities will be different in 2020, people are starting to think about how to make the most of the celebrations. For many of us that includes fizz!

Helpfully, at this time of year newspapers and magazines publish lots of guides on which champagne or prosecco to buy; as well as the best mince pies and Christmas puddings of course.

One recent article caught my eye. The headline reads: ‘Supermarkets’ own-brand champagne beats French houses in Which? test’.  That’s right, an £18 supermarket champagne has beaten the likes of Moet&Chandon and Veuve Clicqout, costing up to twice as much, to come out top in a blind taste test. So, the article implies, there is no need to spend more than £18 a bottle on champagne this Christmas. All the lovely bubbles for less money. Great!

But…there’s a big problem with recommendations based on blind taste tests. They completely fail to take into account a factor that is equally, if not more, important than the actual taste in our enjoyment of a drink.

 What happens in the real world.

People in the real world don’t sit down and carefully sip champagne, noting the different aromas and flavours. How dry or sweet it is etc.

In the real world champagne is a treat for a celebratory moment. The cork goes ‘pop’. Everyone says ‘ooohh bubbly, lovely!’. It’s served with ceremony and pride. It’s sipped, or quaffed while we sit or stand around chatting, feeling a bit posh and maybe a bit giddy.

We drink champagne because we want to feel sophisticated and indulgent. Not simply for the taste. Knowing you are drinking champagne from one of the famous French brands creates those feelings. You will also expect it to taste nice because you trust Moet et al. to be good quality. It’s what they are experts in.

The most famous blind taste test is the Pepsi Challenge. It reveals that most people prefer the taste of Pepsi to Coca Cola when they sip it from a small cup in a blind comparison.

 The Pepsi Challenge has been very successful as a campaign. It even had Coca Cola so worried that in 1985 their drink was reformulated to make it sweeter. It was a disaster. Within three months Coca Cola had switched back to the original recipe after a public backlash.

What Coke forgot was that how people drink their product in the real world is nothing like a blind taste test. Firstly, people know when they are drinking Coca Cola, it says so on the can or bottle. All the associations they might have with Coke; refreshment, bubbles, good times, etc are projected onto their experience of actually drinking it. People expect to like Coke, so they do.

The second big difference between the Pepsi Challenge and real life is that people drink a lot more than a sip of their chosen cola. They at least drink a can. While most people may prefer a sip of Pepsi to Coke, by the time they have drunk a whole can, many of them will find the sweetness too much. In the real world, the flavour of Coke is preferred. Whether you are selling champagne or socks you must never forget how people really consume your product and the context they will be in.

It’s the first step on the path to Punching Above Your Weight.

If you want to chat with us more on how we can help your business tap into what really drives your customers’ decisions, then please get in touch.

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