18 November 2016
Considered under 5th Edition of the Code.
“Eden Brewery have produced a range of beer called ‘Psycho’. The advertising has included ‘calling all you psychos’, ‘why not let out your inner madman/woman and have a look’, ‘brewed kicking and screaming’, ‘are you psycho?’. The Cambridge English Dictionary defines ‘psycho’ as ‘someone who is crazy and frightening’. Therefore, I am of the opinion that Eden Brewery is not only producing a stigmatising product which perpetuates negative stereotypes about mental health, and therefore breaches the Equality Act (2010) but also breaks rule 3.2 of your Code of Practice. The brand name ‘psycho’ associate’s beer with violent and aggressive behaviour.”
Member of the public
Under Code paragraph 3.2(b)
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 (though sponsorship of activities which may be dangerous after alcohol consumption, such as motor or yacht racing, are not in themselves in breach of this clause).
The company’s submission
The company started by saying that since being contacted by the complainant they had changed the use of the language on the product labels and promotional blogs. This had included removing the words ‘brewed kicking and screaming’ from the product labels and, removing ‘Are you Psycho?’ from the website. It would also not be using the phrases ‘calling all pyschos’, and ‘why not let your inner madman/woman take a look’ if there was a chance these could cause offence.
The company also said it would continue to the use the brand name ‘Psycho’ as it believed the term did not in itself associate the beers with violent and aggressive behaviour.
The company went on to explain that in its view ‘psycho’ was a prefix that can be used in words that relate to the mind, for example, psychobabble, psychotropic, psychogeography. It had always been the company’s intention to use the word in this context: to change people’s perceptions and expand their mind in relation to beer.
The company said the products are marketed as premium products at a premium price in quality retailers.
In a further submission from the company it asserted that the product was produced to stimulate the thoughts of its consumers, for them to think differently, and its consumers understood this was the association the company was trying to create with the name Psycho. In the company’s opinion, the product did not have an association with violent or aggressive behaviour as the complainant had claimed because it was not cheap or produced for the mass market.
The Panel’s submission
The Panel noted that the product labelling was subdued and the brand name Psycho featured a full-stop in it (Psy.cho). It also noted that, unlike Four Loko (which had been cited as a similar case), the packaging did not feature lurid colours or patterns which could be seen to exacerbate the link with mind alteration.
The Panel also acknowledged that the company had made changes to its website.
The Panel considered that the company had clearly intended to create an association between the name and ‘madness’ because the website featured an image of Norman Bates (from the movie Psycho), and terms such as ‘designed to mess with your mind’ were designed to perpetuate the link. In the Panel’s view madness, in the context of alcohol, meant drinking in an out-of-control way and this created an association with violent and aggressive behaviour.
The Panel then went on to consider whether the brand name alone was problematic or whether it was only problematic when taken as a whole with the marking activity in the blogs and website. In considering these aspects the Panel concluded that the name itself had a connotation with violence and being out of control, but noted this to be an indirect association.
Taking all these points into consideration the Panel found the product name to create an association with violent and aggressive behaviour in breach of Code rule 3.2(b).
The Panel found that the product range did not breach any other aspect of the Code.
Action by the Company
The company decided not to amend their product in line with the Panel’s ruling. Therefore, the Retailer Alert Bulletin below was issued.