Final Decision: 7 March 2019
Considered under the 5th Edition of the Code.
“Bargain Booze unicorn tears gin appeals to under 18’s. The unicorn is a mythical creature which particularly appeals to girls aged under 10. The front packaging shows a cartoon like unicorn [sic] crying on pink packaging, which furthermore appeals to young girls”.
Portman Group acting in lieu of a member of the public
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.
Under Code paragraph 3.2(j)
A drink, its packaging and any promotional material should not in any direct or indirect way suggest that the product has therapeutic qualities, or can enhance mental or physical capabilities.
The company’s submission
The company explained that Unicorn Tears Raspberry Gin Liqueur had been launched in 2018 in response to the growing trend for pink gin. The company stated that Unicorn Tears Raspberry Gin Liqueur was part of its premium spirits range with a 40% alcoholic strength by volume (abv) and a high-end price point of £40 RRP.
The company then addressed the complainant’s assertion that the product had a particular appeal to under-18s. The company explained that the product design employed a simple black colour print and did not use a colour scheme that could be misconstrued as appealing to under-18s. In the context of a product with a premium price point and positioned in the adult spirits category, the company did not believe that the product was in breach of the Code.
The company then addressed the illustration of the unicorn on the front label and stated that unicorns were legendary, mythical creatures that have been present in fiction for over 3,000 years. The company explained that unicorns were once considered real by the Ancient Greeks, featuring in natural history books and religious texts and have remained intriguing to people throughout history; from the Medieval period to the Renaissance and from Western art and culture to Chinese mythology. The company explained that, as well as being steeped in lore and fiction, unicorns were also the national animal of Scotland and a symbol of diversity and could not be said to have a particular appeal to under-18s.
The company stated that its success had led to a number of ‘inspired’ products in the industry, some of which incorporated a unicorn as part of their naming and packaging, and shared these examples with the Panel.
The company asserted that there was no possibility that the product could be confused with a soft drink or non-alcoholic product. The company stated that the product clearly communicated its alcoholic nature with absolute clarity by clearly incorporating various alcoholic cues on the front and back label; according to the company:
- the words ‘Gin Liqueur’ appeared in large black font on the front label;
- the figure 40% vol appeared in black font on the front label;
- the back label included relevant regulatory information such as the UK pregnancy warning, unit content of the container and the old UK Chief Medical Officers’ (CMO) daily unit guidelines.
The Panel’s assessment
The Panel first considered the overall impression conveyed by the product packaging. The Panel noted that the product communicated its alcoholic nature with absolute clarity by virtue of the clear display of the words ‘Gin Liqueur’ in bold black font on the front label along with the ABV. In addition to this, the back label contained the unit content of the bottle, pregnancy logo, the UK CMO’s daily unit guidelines and a tailored responsible drinking message. The Panel also noted that the bottle shape was fairly traditional in design for a spirit and had a cork stopper, which helped contribute towards the product’s positive alcoholic cues.
The Panel then considered whether the product had a particular appeal to under-18s. The Panel discussed the inclusion of unicorn imagery on an alcoholic product and acknowledged the producer’s point that such imagery could hold a broad appeal for all age groups, given their symbolism. The Panel considered the examples the company had provided of similar products but noted that those images were more representative of sophisticated fantasy artwork.
The Panel acknowledged that pink gin had become a popular addition to the gin category in recent years. However, the Panel noted that Unicorn Tears Raspberry Gin Liqueur contained candarin to give the product a sparkly and shimmery appearance, and this could create a strong appeal to young girls.
The Panel acknowledged the company’s point that the product label utilised a black line drawing style but noted the illustration of the unicorn had the appearance of a child’s drawing and would not be out of place as a logo on a child’s toy, in a colouring book, or on an item of children’s clothing. The Panel noted that the thick black uneven typeface below the unicorn illustration further compounded this childlike presentation. The Panel reflected on the illustration and typeface in the context of previous expert opinion that it had received in 2015 which had highlighted bold black lines as a potential marketing tool sometimes employed by marketers to appeal to children. The Panel acknowledged that the use of black lines was not in itself problematic, but it was important to recognise that its use may resonate with young children when used in combination with other childlike design elements.
When considering the overall impression conveyed by the product, including the unicorn logo, childlike typeface and sparkly pink liquid colour, the Panel considered that the product did have a particular appeal to under-18s and accordingly upheld the product under Code Rule 3.2(h).
Finally, the Panel considered the text on the back label, which included the sentence ‘swirl to unleash their magical powers’. The Panel discussed the meaning behind this in the context of the overall impression conveyed by the product and concluded that the line was being used in reference to the shimmer of the liquid as opposed to suggesting that the product had ‘magical powers’ and accordingly did not uphold the product under Code Rule 3.2(j).
Action by Company
The Company agreed to work with the Advisory Service to amend the product packaging.