I received a press release the other day from a Canadian vodka company that recently updated their brand. In addition to a snazzy new website and new bottle shape, the press release informed me that the vodka company opted to include a new area on their label that changes colours when the vodka reaches optimal drinking temperature.
Now, I don’t have anything bad to say about the vodka–it’s actually a good, smooth, well-priced, Canadian vodka–but this sort of superfluous branding gimmick irks me.
It’s a strategy that was probably first and definitely most famously embraced by Molson-Coors when they opted to include colour-changing mountains on their beer bottle labels in 2007 (which were joined by “cold activated cans” in 2009). They ushered a new era of branding into an industry already awash with cheesy branding and arguably invented a new temperature by coining the term “rocky mountain cold.”
Now regardless of what some beer snobs might say, there is of course a time and a place for a really cold and easy to drink beer; post baseball game or following some strenuous yard work it’s hard to advocate downing a 16 degree Celsius snifter of Chimay Grand Reserve. One likely opts for something cold in these situations, whether it be rocky mountain cold, Rubbermaid cooler cold, or just plain garage fridge cold. However, choosing to market your beer on the merit of its cold temperature and the beer’s ability to let you know when it has reached that temperature is just plain stupid.
Firstly, that you’ve chosen to lead with “cold” as your beer’s most endearing characteristic suggests there’s not that much else going on with your beer. It stands to reason that most liquids, given time, can be made cold, so if the best thing you can say about your beer is that you can easily throw it in a fridge, I’m likely to grab something else on the shelf at the LCBO instead.
Secondly, humans are born with a special tool for telling when things are hot or cold–it’s called a sense of touch. If you’re close enough to see the mountain on your beer can, you can probably just feel the fucking can with your hand.
The “cold activated” bottle label and beer can to my mind–and I’d venture the minds of most people who enjoy good beer and spirits–is just cheesy and unnecessary, so it pains me to see that this vodka has decided to align itself with that brand of marketing. I’d actually always considered this decent and Canadian-made spirit pretty underrated, a fact I attributed to the vaguely cheesy bottle and label, so it’s a shame that in effort to position themselves as a more premium brand they opted to include this gimmick I tend to associate with brands far from “premium.” Indeed, snippets from the press release that include information like the fact that the vodka is made from 100% Canadian ingredients, including water from 7000 year-old glaciers does far more to stir my interest in the product than the ability to know when it’s cold.
Obviously the premium spirits category is a quickly growing segment of alcohol sales here in Ontario and elsewhere, so I understand the need to try to separate oneself from the competition and I can sympathize with this brand feeling the need to mix it up a bit, as it were; however, I’d suggest that if you want to identify your brand as premium, you should consider avoiding gimmicks that seem geared to marketing your product to people who are only interested in throwing your bottle in the freezer, to to be pulled out when it’s ice cold and it’s time to do shots.