13 September 2018
Considered under 5th Edition of the Code.
1. The Name of the Product “Fynoderee Manx Bumbee Vodka”
(a.), ‘Fynoderee’ is a well known children’s fairy tale character on the Isle of Man, along with other such characters as the ‘Buggane’, ‘Manannin’ and the ‘Moddey Dhoo’ the story of the Fynoderee is well known amongst local children and adults retell the stories to their children. Once I saw the label of this “Manx Bumbee Vodka” I was immediately alarmed as, in my mind, there was a clear appeal of the ‘Bumbee’ narrative and image to under-18s.
(b.), ‘Bumbee’ is a contraction of the word ‘Bumblebee’ and is synonymous with a children’s fairy tale on the Isle of Man.
(c.), the style of writing employed to deliver the brand name is ‘swirling, fairy tale-esque with the addition of a dot within the ‘O’ of Vodka which I believe is much as a child might draw in their notebook or see in a book of fairy tales. Overall impression of the Brand description, “Fynoderee Bumbee Vodka” is appealing to under-18’s as it evokes a setting or atmosphere that would particularly resonate with under-18’s.
2. The images presented on the label: There are several elements of the packaging that when combined may appeal to under-18’s:
Firstly, the character ‘Bumbee’ – a stylised cartoon image of a feminine human-bee chimera. Youthful in appearance, spritely and colourful- the contrasting vivid yellow and black stripes of her basque, long gloves, highwaisted shorts, leg coverings, a stinger-like tailpiece, high heel boots and red lips combine to produce a ‘sexy’ image – one that an adolescent person may be attracted to, or wish to emulate.
‘Bumbee’ appears three times on the label. Each pose appears to enhance the sex appeal of the character
The contrasting yellow and black colours of her costume, combined with her red lips, striking pose and fairy tale demeanor combine to create an image that may appeal to under-18’s. It is not clear whether the character, herself, appears to be over 25 years of age, as recommended by the Portman Group. (rule 3.2i) however, a person who was asked whether ‘Bumbee’ was a youthful character might very well conclude that she is.
(b.) Bumbee Cage
Some explanation as to the importance of this image to the fairy tale may be helpful to those not brought up on the Isle of Man.
A Bumbee Cage is not traditionally associated with adult behaviour, except when grandparents weave one for their grandchildren.
Combined with the images of ‘Bumbee’ as described above, the ‘Bumbee Cage’ is part of a fairy tale which is told in graphic form on the label. There does not appear to be any adult theme to the graphic elements of the label, other than a tenuous link to UNESCO Biosphere accreditation.
For the reasons cited above I believe the product as presented breaches the Group’s code 3.2 (h)
Comment on the text: The use of the words “leaving a warm fuzzy feeling inside” may appeal to people under the age of 18. It is doubtful whether this term would be used in a product aimed at drinkers over the age of 25
So, in conclusion, my complaint is that Fynoderee Manx Bumbee Vodka breaches the Portman Groups Code 3.2 h. In that “ its packaging or promotion should not have a particular appeal to under-18s” specifically, for the reasons stated above, but also in general for its overall tone and appearance, namely invoking a children’s fairy story to promote the sale of a vodka at 40% Abv. The visual clues, combined with the fairy tale narrative, I believe, make the drink appealing to those under 18 years of age.
Kella Distillers Limited
Under Code paragraph 3.2(h)
A drink, its packaging and any promotional material should not in any direct or indirect way have a particular appeal to under-18s.
The company’s submission
The company advised that Fynoderee Manx Bumbee Vodka had been launched in June 2018 prior to which, the distillery had been in operation since November 2017 based in the Isle of Man. The company refuted the complainants view that the product held a particular appeal to under 18’s; and stated the opinion that the complaint was driven by competition rather than genuine concern.
The company explained the product name and branding was inspired by aspects of Manx heritage, culture and folklore with the ambition to bring attention to the ancient tales through the branding of a premium product to appeal discerning connoisseurs of fine spirits.
The company first addressed the complainants view that the product name would appeal to under 18’s. The company explained that the word ‘bumbee’ is a little used colloquial phrase to mean bumblebee which forms part of a local and obscure folklore tradition. It was chosen as it tied in with the honey ingredients used in the product. The company disagreed that the design of the label incorporated a well-known Manx fairy tale which would appeal to under 18’s and stated it is factually incorrect to say a fairy-tale called ‘Bumbee’ exists. The company clarified that the character ‘Bumbee’ is a fictional, and previously unseen creation of the designer and would not be recognisable as a fairy-tale character or particularly appeal to persons under 18.
The company noted that while ‘Fynoderee’ is a Manx folklore story on the Isle of Man; its appeal is cross generational and likely to be more familiar with adult residents with interest in the local history and traditions of the Isle of Man. Furthermore, the company stated that the style of writing on the product is Art Nouveau and is a highly designed artistic font, with no similarity to fonts associated with children’s books; and therefore, not one that would particularly appeal or resonate with under 18’s. The company summarised this point by outlining that there is a difference between folklore tales that appeal to all ages, and well-known fairy tales that are aimed at under 18’s; and clarified they believe their product does not fall in the latter’s category.
Next, the company addressed the complainants view that the character ‘Bumbee’ could appeal to under 18’s. The company explained as a previously unseen character, the illustration was designed in a 1940’s style of an adult of indeterminate age, to embody strong sassy characteristics of a bad fairy and refuted that these elements could appeal to an underage audience. The company explained that the character is one aspect of a complex label design with several elements that compete for attention; the word ‘Vodka’ being the largest, drawing the consumers eye while providing clarity that the product is alcoholic. Additionally, the company noted while the design depicts the historical activity of weaving ‘Bumbee’ cages; they are generally the preserve of adult weaving classes on the Island and are not typical of activities undertaken by under 18s.
The company addressed the wording ‘leaving a warm fuzzy feeling inside’ used
on the back on the product. The company stated that the phrase is a well know expression used by all ages. They noted that the text appears in a .6 sized font and used was an evocative turn of phrase to make play of the bee and honey theme. The company summarised that they did not believe the use of this phrase, nor any other elements of the product to have particular appeal to an under 18 audience.
The company additionally provided a letter of support from the products label designer, Artist Julia Ashby Smyth.
The Panel’s assessment
The Panel first discussed the name of the product and its connection with a children’s fairy-tale story. The Panel noted that the folk lore story, on which the product was based was not well known. It acknowledged that through additional research, it understood the word ‘Fynoderee’ was now more strongly associated with the company’s product range than a folklore tale and noted due to its obscurity, it did not have a particular appeal to an under 18 audience. Furthermore, the Panel clarified that folklore stories did not hold the same over indexing appeal to children that classic fairy tales do.
The Panel then examined the front label; and noted that the use of bees, honeycomb and fox glove flowers. The Panel considered in context these elements of the design related to the honey ingredient used and the design was adult in nature. Looking next, at the illustration of the ‘Bumbee’ character the panel considered that the characteristics were reminiscent of 1940’s style pin-up designs and carried a mature theme. The Panel considered the font and could find no similarity with typical youth-oriented font styles; and noted that the word ‘Vodka’ was displayed in large text to provide clarity on the contents of the product.
The Panel then considered the impression conveyed by the product overall. The Panel concluded that, though the design was whimsical it was mature in design, the illustration is adult in style and not reminiscent of a classic fairy tale. Accordingly, the Panel concluded the product was not in breach of Code rule 3.2(h).
Finally, the Panel considered the text ‘leaving a warm fuzzy feeling inside’, in the context of a suggestion that the product has therapeutic qualities. The Panel considered that, in this instance the phrase was acceptable given that it describes, and accurate reaction caused by the ingestion of a spirit and accordingly did not consider the product in breach of Code rule 3.2(j).
Action by the Company
No further action required.