The holiday season comes with dinner invitations. It is pretty common that the guest gives as a gift a bottle of wine to the host as a sign of appreciation for the invite (at least I do – lacking of better, more creative ideas). The guest does not want to come across as cheap. What kind of bottle of wine should you buy? Straightforward, you could buy an expensive bottle of wine, of course, or you could buy a heavy bottle of wine.
Why a heavy bottle? When consumers cannot objectively judge the quality of a product, they refer to other signals to gauge the quality. This mechanism explains the “price-quality inference effect” (see also Nugget #10).
Piqueras-Fiszman & Spence (2012) asked customers about their opinions and expectations about expensive and high-quality wine. In this survey respondents completed following statements “More expensive wines come in…” and “Higher quality wines come in…’’ on a 9-point scale with endpoints “lighter wine bottles” and “heavier wine bottles”. The midpoint 5 on this 9-point scale means that participants do not perceive or expect a relationship between weight and price or quality at all; any rating higher than 5 though expresses expectations of more expensive/ higher-quality wines to come with heavier bottles.
The researchers only included participants with actual wine drinking experience (i.e. drinking more than one glass of wine per week) and asked them to judge their own level of expertise with wine (categories “naïve”, “amateur”, “expert”). The researchers found that people with little wine expertise (Naïve) expect both expensive wines (avg. rating 7.1) and higher-quality wines (6.6) to come in heavier bottles. Amateurs and Experts rated those questions slightly above 5 (5.2 to 5.5).
The research team also turned to the real-life wine market and weighed 500+ wine bottles in a cooperating wine shop (you can tell this research project might have been fun). This field study confirmed a positive relationship between the price of a bottle of wine and its weight, hence, customer expectations are rooted in real-life experience.
What does this mean for you?
- If you are a guest to a dinner party, within the same price range you might select a heavier bottle.
- If you are a retailer, you might include package cues (like weight of the bottle for wine) in your pricing decisions.
- If you are a manufacturer, you might reconsider your packaging (and pricing).
[Disclaimer: The researchers acknowledge that they actually did not run a blind wine tasting experiment to confirm that heavier bottles lead to better price/ quality perceptions (which means that weight and price/ quality are not only correlated but also that the former causes the latter). They “only” found a positive correlation between weight and price/quality expectation – but they did not establish causality. However, these results should still help you with your immediate task of selecting a wine for your next dinner party invitation.]
Piqueras-Fiszman, Betina and Charles Spence (2012). The Weight of the Bottles as a Possible Extrensic Cue with which to Estimate the Price (and Quality) of the Wine? Observed Correlations. Food Quality and Preference, 25, 41-45.