Why distinctive beer bottles don’t fly off the shelf

Published: 22 March 2016 at 16:49

Why distinctive beer bottles don't fly off the shelf

Anglia Ruskin’s PubLAB finds that people value key information over fancy imagery

New research by Anglia Ruskin University’s PubLAB™ reveals that when it comes to picking a pint, the UK’s beer drinkers are a conservative bunch.

Advertising and marketing experts focus heavily on distinctiveness.  Logos, colours and imagery are developed to ensure the brand is as different from competitors and as recognisable as possible. 

However, PubLAB™ researchers at Anglia Ruskin University have found that distinctiveness of beer bottle and label design is a poor predictor of beer choice.  

Qualitative measures of beer bottle distinctiveness were taken from 67 respondents and their visual attention was measured using eye-tracking equipment as they made their selections from a supermarket shelf simulation. 

The beers with the highest distinctiveness scores – Fuller’s 1845 and Shepherd Neame 1698 – performed poorly in terms of visual attention and choice.  On the other hand, beers such as Badger Blandford Flyer and Tweed Hopster were rated as much less distinctive but attracted more visual attention and were chosen more often. 

Tim Froggett, Senior Lecturer in Marketing at Anglia Ruskin University, said: 
“Distinctiveness and visual attention are not the same.  

“An object may be distinctive simply because it is different from other objects surrounding it.  And the factors creating distinctiveness are not necessarily the same as those driving attention, consideration and choice. 

“In crowded supermarket environments, shoppers direct attention to the centre of objects where they expect to find choice-related information such as product type, brand name or details of flavour characteristics.

“In the case of Fuller’s 1845 and Shepherd Neame 1698, the beer labels are distinctive but do not have the ‘task-relevant information’ that attracts attention and guides decision making.”

The key lessons for beer brand owners are: 
- Probability of a beer being chosen increases with visual attention.
- The relationship between visual attention and choice is more than three times stronger than the relationship between distinctiveness and choice.
- If bottles and label designs are tested for visual attention, their on-shelf performance can be improved.