12 December 2019
Considered under the 6th Edition of the Code.
“The product name and pink elephant image directly promotes enhanced mental capabilities, therapeutic qualities and mood altering effects. Delirium means a serious disturbance in mental abilities and confused state. The pink elephant is a euphemism for drunken hallucination.”
Zenith Global (as part of the independent audit of the Sixth Edition of the Code 2019)
Under Code paragraph 3.2(j)
A drink, its packaging and any promotional material or activity should not in any direct or indirect way suggest that the product has therapeutic qualities, can enhance mental or physical capabilities, or change mood or behaviour
The company’s submission
The formal response was submitted by the company that imported Delirium to the UK, James Clay.
The company said they were not signatories to the Code. They asked the Panel to consider information about the brand, brewery and history.
The company stated that Delirium Blonde had been sold in the UK for several decades. They said they had worked with the Portman Group to change the packaging in 1999 and had received no complaints since then. They noted the complaint was not from a member of the public but had been raised as the result of an audit commissioned by the Portman Group.
The company stated De Huyghe Brewery was founded in 1654 and had been making beer on the same site for centuries. They explained that the Huyghe family bought the brewery in 1906, the brewery had remained in the family’s ownership since then and Delirium Blonde had been produced by the family brewery since 1988. The company said the name, colour scheme and elephant logo were world famous and had helped to establish Delirium as one of the most recognisable and widely-sold Belgium beers. They stated that Delirium Blonde was sold globally, was highly celebrated, and had won numerous prestigious awards. The company argued that the colour, name and logo could not be changed without irreparable damage to the brand.
The Panel’s assessment
The Panel acknowledged the changes made by the producer after a Panel decision in 1999. The Panel noted the product had previously been marketed as Delirium Tremens and continued to be sold under that name outside the UK.
The Panel discussed whether the name Delirium was fundamentally problematic by making a connection to disturbances in mental ability or feelings of elation. The Panel discussed the wording of rule 3.2(j) and noted that, while some rules required that packaging should not “suggest any association with” certain activities or qualities, the wording of 3.2(j) required that packaging should not “suggest that a product has therapeutic qualities, can enhance mental […] capabilities, or change mood or behaviour”. The Panel considered that 3.2(j) meant that packaging should not directly or indirectly suggest that the product had a certain effect but did not prohibit “any association with” such effect. They considered whether the packaging of Delirium made such suggestions.
The Panel also referred to its previous decision on Suicyder, which had been found in breach of rule 3.2(b): the Panel noted that decision was based not just on the product name but also the imagery showing a noose, which made a visual link to suicide.
The Panel discussed the imagery on the Delirium label. They acknowledged that pink elephants could be a euphemism for drunken hallucinations but considered that the cultural association was not so strong that the elephant amounted to a suggestion that the product could induce hallucination. The Panel agreed that neither the pink elephant nor the dancing crocodiles suggested that the product caused delirium. After discussing the packaging at length, the Panel considered there were no claims or cues that implied the product could alter mental capabilities or change mood and behaviour.
The Panel welcomed the removal of the word Tremens and considered that the change alleviated its concerns about the product name. The Panel stressed that care should be taken when using a name like Delirium: they made clear that their decision was specific to this product and that the word “delirium”, and similar words, would be considered on a case by case basis, taking the full context of the packaging into account.
After carefully discussing the packaging and considering the overall impression conveyed, the Panel concluded that the product did not breach rule 3.2(j). The complaint was not upheld.
Action by Company
No action required.