January 31, 2012

1800 Tequila Bottle Design – What Goes Wrong When Form Doesn’t Follow Function

We have all heard the line “ain’t no use crying over spilled milk”.  But what about tequila?

I’ve been obsessed with tequila lately.  And not just any tequila, 1800 Tequila (formerly known as Cuervo 1800 Tequila and now imported and distributed by Proximo Spirits).  And I'm not obsessed with it because I have an inclination towards a habit that will lead me to meetings that start and end with the letter A.  I have been obsessed with it because of the bottle design, more specifically, the bottle top.
Here’s why:  the 1800 Tequila bottle looks like any other ordinary liquor bottle.  But when you look closer the top is actually designed to serve as a shot glass.

See that hole on top . . .magic shot glass/pouer thing!

I became intrigued.  This was product interaction at its core and the design epitome of form follows function (and with a spirit nonetheless).  A shot glass that comes with the bottle that is also the top -- ingenious when all that spirits are doing in the way of package innovation is trying to look cool.

The labeling on the back gives a fairly easy process: loosen the top slightly, turn bottle upside down, fill, turn horizontally, pull the top out.   Voila.  Okay, makes enough sense and the video below makes it look like Tequila on Ice:

And then I tried it . . . disaster.
And I tried it again.  And I tried it again.  All times, at least a shot was lost in the process. The bottle was heavy and clunky, the top was hard to grip, pouring a shot took decades, and even if I could coordinate tilting the bottle up properly I still got splattered with booze.  The whole thing just didn’t work.

And then I got annoyed.  Yes because of spilled tequila, (at $30 bucks a pop I watched at least $10 of it go down the drain), but also because the shot top design felt like nothing but a quick and dirty marketing scheme served up in the form of package design whose only purpose was to pull me in but not deliver on anything.   It was the parsley garnish on my plate that I couldn’t eat, the parking spot that looks like a parking spot but is nothing but a fire hydrant.  My 1800 tequila had put on red lipstick and 4 inch heels and left me at the front door with nothing but a smooch on the cheek and an empty wallet.
This was packaging design that needed some help.  So I made myself a margarita and pondered it.

There were two immediate problems:
  1. Extreme stopper suckage – this was no easy top to get out
  2. Completely unuser friendly - A spill-less experience required the perfect coordination of lifting the bottle back to vertical at the same time that the top was pulled (and we all know how coordination is indirectly proportional to increased alcohol consumption).
Of course, the redesign would have to make sense on a business and production level.  Any changes made would have to take in mind the existing bottle production process.  And any package redesign costs would have to be offset by increased sales volume.  

Maybe the top could be round for an easier grip?  Or maybe it could be in the shape of a T (you know, T for Tequila, get it. . .) which would definitely offer a more ergonomic design that would lend itself to twisting rather than brute force yanking. . .
I'm no Van Gogh

But then I stopped. Was unique and effective design a product differentiator in the tequila market? Would people buy 1800 Tequila for a better functioning shot top?  Were current users chastising their tequila brand for ineffective and clunky design?  Did they even care?  I mean, I don’t buy my beer because of the bottle shape . . .
But, no, this was tequila and tequila is not your everyday drink of choice (thank god!); it’s an experience and can we argue that the better experience you can give to your drinkers, the better off you might be. 

Based on what I've been seeing in spirits packaging I'd venture to say that design in the spirits world matters and it matters more now than ever as the spirits category regain their place in a competitive market.  1800 Tequila started a cool thing, but it was a half thought out idea.  And half thought out is no place to be in a competitive, design centric market.

So instead of creating the new top design, I’m writing a letter:

Dear 1800 Tequila,
I like you because your bottle looks like it has been on a shelf since 1800 (and that is a compliment to the value proposition of tequilas' -- aged).  But your shot top misses the mark and frankly, it’s a huge let down.  Millennia’s won’t find your top cool, in fact you might be delineated to the category of “your grandfather’s tequila”.  And I don’t know about you, but my grandfather and all grandfathers I know don’t choose tequila as their drink of choice. . .

So, in 2012, instead of bottles designed by comic artists, can we see a better top?
Cries over Spilled Tequila

What do you think? 

Oh and by the way, while Proximo was doing its 3rd Essential Artists Contest they also launched a new ad campaign.  This one is my favorite.  Yes Michael Imperioli, I often ask myself the same question:

Thanks for reading!

Oh and just for fun, in the event that Proximo does change their bottle top, you should buy a bottle and try it and then invite me over for a cocktail.  Salud!

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  1. Well I'm not a big drinker of Tequila, but this is a great post. Few things in life are more annoying than cheap marketing ploys. Even if the product is decent, you are so put off by their antics that the good qualities are overshadowed.

    Cute sketches by the way; I hope that you included them with your letter!

  2. Haha, thanks Shona. I'm not a big drinker of Tequila either and don't get me started on packaging that takes a kitchen knife to open . . .Glad you enjoyed!

  3. I am experimenting with tequila and first started with a pint of patron silver. At 25 bucks it was an expensive drink, but it was amazingly smooth and a very clean finish.

    My second bottle was a 5th of 1800 Silver. I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that I actually had to Google "how to open 1800 silver" but also surprised that I'm not the only one out there - tons of hits!

    I prefer just to pour it, but then I saw that it was a shot stopper. I kept moving the liquid back and forth, trying to figure out "How is this even possible without spilling? You would have to consume about 50%-60% of the bottle to be able to do it!" so I didn't try it, but I can easily see that problem.

    Great post!

  4. I realized that as well that it worked much easier with only half a full bottle but then what's the sense in that, right? Thanks for reading!


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