A complaint by a member of the public against Dead Man’s Fingers Super Spiced Rum and Dead Man’s Fingers Tequila Reposado was not upheld by the alcohol industry’s Independent Complaints Panel (ICP). Both products were considered under the rule regarding association with dangerous behaviour, whilst the rum product was also reviewed as to whether it gave undue emphasis to its higher alcoholic strength. A copy of the full decisions is available here and here.

Produced by Halewood Artisanal Spirits plc the complaint for both products was made in relation to rule 3.2(b), that a drink, its packaging and any promotional material or activity should not in any direct or indirect way suggest any association with bravado, or with violent, aggressive, dangerous, anti-social or illegal behaviour. Additionally, the ICP considered Dead Man’s Fingers Super Spiced Rum under rule 3.2(a), that a drink, its packaging and any promotional material or activity should not in any direct or indirect way give the higher alcoholic strength, or intoxicating effect, undue emphasis.

The complaint related to the colour contrast in the letters of the name Dead Man’s Fingers Tequila Reposado to show the word DANGER. Regarding the Spiced Rum, the complainant pointed to the depiction of a skull on fire which they felt linked the product with danger.

The producer stated that the Dead Man’s Fingers range was generally edgy and bold and that the name of the brand related to the inedible part of a crab, which in folklore would lead to the death of someone who consumed them. The producer said that neither the design nor brand name was threatening, violent, aggressive or dangerous or encouraged such behaviour.

The Panel considered that the word ‘danger’ in and of itself did not go far enough to create an association with a type of dangerous behaviour and noted the distinct difference between ‘danger’ in principle and an association with behaviour that would be considered dangerous before or after alcohol consumption.

The Panel considered whether the highlighted danger in the name was supported by other cues, given that both products had a singular image of different types of skulls. In reviewing both bottles, the Panel considered that the skulls were used to create an edgy brand feel to appeal to its target market of young adults. The Panel concluded that the overall impression of the bottles did not create an association, either directly or indirectly, with dangerous behaviour, and therefore did not breach Code rule 3.2(b).

Regarding the spiced rum product, which incorporated the product’s 43% ABV in red font on the front label, the Panel considered whether this, in combination with the word ‘super’, placed undue emphasis on the product’s higher alcoholic strength. The Panel noted that the supporting information on the pack sought to emphasise that ‘super’ related to the spices in the rum, rather than the strength of the ABV. Given that there were no visual or written cues that placed undue emphasis on the product’s higher alcoholic strength, the Panel concluded that the product did not breach Code rule 3.2(a).

Commenting on the decision, the Chair of the Independent Complaints Panel, Nicola Williams, said: “We are supportive of producers being creative and using this in all aspects of a product and design, including naming. This case shows that producers can be edgy to appeal to their customers as there was no association with dangerous behaviour.”

Halewood Artisanal Spirits was invited to comment and said “We agree with the panel’s finding and in our opinion this was never a breach of the code. DMF’s edgy design is integral to the success of the brand and often these good intentioned processes are open to abuse, by less successful competitors under a disguise of a consumer.” – comment provided at the discretion of PG to retain and publish.