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Emotional Beings

Kevin Roberts of Saatchi and Saatchi said that 80% of our choices are made emotionally. He called marketers to put emotion back into advertising -it made me wonder -how far do we rationally choose the choices we make? And how can we make sensible predictions about decisions if we are emotionally making them?

I never have been a great decision maker when it comes to personal choices. Its silly really, I can choose rationally when it comes to work -weighing up what is good in short and long term, and balancing the trade-offs. But when it comes to picking out a meal in a restaurant or a pint in a pub I have butterflies. Which shall I pick? I’ve gotten better with practice over the years, and my boyfriend helps with a little reminder: “This is not your last meal”.

Going to Catford Bridge Tavern I am like a child in a sweetshop. There are so many to try on tap, and they all look interesting. To spice things up a bit the choice is more that what’s on tap today: it’s a bit like a rolling beer festival as these ales are replaced by new ales when they’re finished -so the variety just keeps on diversifying. A word of warning -don’t get too attached to one! But it adds to my excitement, as I know I’ll be greeted with new choice of guest ale pretty much every time I visit, even if I visit twice a week it seems.

So how do I choose? I walk up and down the bar taking it all in, and generally pick whatever is a polar opposite to what I last tried: a stout when I last had a light, hoppy ale, or a nutty deep brown one after a slightly chilled porter.  I am a variety seeker. Perhaps this is a rational strategy after all. I want to try as many things as possible in this finite life we live.

Or I simply like the badge:

They have some beautiful branded (iron scorched) wooden badges for some Moors beers. The beauty of a logo or badge can really draw you in to give it a try. Though they say don’t judge a book by its cover, I can’t help it. I’m like a moth to a light.

This Hobgoblin brand logo appealingly reminds me of the elaborate and otherworldly book covers of Terry Pratchett’s Disc World series.

Attitude to Risk

What I love about ale is its at a very similar price point to one another, and hasn’t got too much ‘risk’ involved; as good pubs will only purchase quality, and the price of a pint will not break your bank if you decided you really don’t like it. To top this, most pubs will let you have a little test try if you are unsure.

Whereas if I’m choosing a meal the prices can vary greatly, they are much more costly if you do make a mistake and so salience is higher; there is more room to disappoint as I think the capacity for expectations is greater in food (I have an anticipation of how a lasagne should be -if they interpret this differently I may be pleasantly surprised or really disappointed). Whereas I do not presume to expect a particular type when I buy a beer -I’m no expert, I’m like an experimenter with no hypothesis……just happy to get a pleasant sensation or outcome.

Emotionally Involved

I’ve not been fortunate to try the tailor-made Ruby Hop Cat yet -an ale brewed and named specially for The Catford Bridge Tavern. I have to say, knowing there has been a finite number of barrels made and that some have already been drunk, is a huge incentive to go back and try before the opportunity passes me by.

I do think this personal affiliation with a product makes it far more desirable to me. If I feel part of the brand, its values or its associations, I am far more likely to make an effort to choose it.

However perhaps this bond is only part-way in influencing me. For example I have an emotional connection with Shepherd Neame. I bought a trip around it’s brewery last year and learnt about its staff, its practices and principles. I tasted its beers and learnt about its product line. We enjoyed it so much we went back at the end of summer to the Hop Festival in Faversham where the brewery is situated. I now have two positive events in connection with this brewery, and know which ales of their I particularly like.

However this is not always the deciding factor: On Friday night we were out at this lovely pub somewhere near Old Street in London. I instantly spotted Spitfire and was about to ask for it, when I noticed one next to it of another brewery that I’d not seen before. Unfortunately I can’t remember its name except I think it has something to do with Angels or Wings or something. The variety seeker came out in me and I chose that one instead. It was tasty and I’m glad I went for it. But I would have had a certain positive outcome had I chosen the Spitfire, as it’s a favourite Shepherd Neame of mine.

So in the world of beer, if a pretty new thing comes my way with an inviting label, if I haven’t tried it before, chances are I will choose it, in spite of my love of another brand.

What a beer hussy.

So how can advertisers lull my variety seeking emotionally irrational yet vaguely rational mind pick theirs over the competition?

Convincing the Pubs

I guess more importantly how do brewers get the bars to stock theirs in the first place, in order for me to have the opportunity to choose it?

Guinness, for example (sorry to use Guinness in another example!), is so often chosen as their token stout, that it almost seems like the only choice to us consumers. However I tried a lovely MJ Fortis of Ilkley Brewery the other day and fell in love.


MJ Fortis goes nicely with the pork pie and piccalilli.

A stout you’re more likely to have heard of is Murphys -(both on tap at the Catford Bridge Tavern). But these stouts are far less likely to be as successful countrywide, simply because Guinness is the only one usually stocked in pubs these days. Even though there are plenty of really good quality stouts to try. So the key for brewers is to get into the hearts and minds of the independent pubs out there with the luxury to choose.

All that considered I still have considerable choice where-ever I go; whether in a wonderful real ale pub or other pubs. So what makes me choose the drink I choose, if I only had the chance to try just the one?

  • Is it the most eye catching pretty design of badge
  • Or the position it sits at the bar? (this was noticed recently by a barman who moved the position of a beer after a week and found its popularity shot up)
  • Or is it the name sparking associations in my mind of happy times?
  • Maybe its the relative strength
  • Or the fact that some logos offer a clue as to what type of beer will actually come out like?

*for example Dark Star brewer’s Revelation : For the Love of Hops :OK so I know it will taste very hoppy! (Though I confused ‘Dark Star’ brewery and the deeper colours of the badge with imagining a darker beer….silly really)

  • Is it less personal and more of a social choice -the associations the people around me will make if I order it? -how does this change from social scenario to social scenario, and person to person, gender to gender…..

Whatever the secret is behind my decisions I would love to know! Meanwhile I consume blindly, and live fully. All hail Ale.