When presented with the same glass of wine in the same glass in the same environment, people are more likely to believe the harder-to-pronounce wine tastes better.
This is according to research from Antonia Mantonakis, associate professor of Marketing in Brock’s Faculty of Business. Mantonakis will explain her findings at a Feb. 8 event as part of the annual Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI) Lecture Series.
Mantonakis’ research group has found that when a test group was given an identical wine with two different names, more people pointed to the complicated name as tasting better.
The professor lined up two similar test groups in Brock’s consumer perception and cognition lab. The group was given wine and told it was from the easily-pronounced Titakis Winery. Then it was given wine from Tselepou Winery.
Both names are Greek and begin with a T. Both have three syllables. But Tselepou is harder to pronounce and has more unusual letter combinations. The test consumers rated Tselepou Winery higher on a scale of one to seven.
After the experiment, participants were also given a short quiz to gauge their knowledge of wine. Those with more wine knowledge in particular showed more of a willingness to buy the wine from the hard-to-pronounce winery.
“It’s interesting how consumers perceive things,” Mantonakis said. “Something like the sound of a name can illicit a thought, and that thought can influence the perception of how something tastes.”
Mantonakis had read about the dynamic in other studies. One study found that the more unusual the name of a rollercoaster, the riskier people imagine the ride to be (Song and Schwarz 2009). The same trend is true with fictitious brokerage firms such as Artan versus Lasiea (Shah and Oppenheimer 2007) and food additives (magnalroxate versus hnegripitrom). Even easy-to-pronounce stock market ticker symbols are perceived as being less risky, hence why those symbols are more valuable (Alter and Oppenheimer 2006).
But wine drinkers seem to like risk. Mantonakis guessed early on that seeking a new taste adventure, they’d lean toward the hard-to-pronounce names.
Her work is expanding. Her group is currently looking at whether the same holds true for grape varietals. She is also working with a New Zealand research group to determine the impact of wine labels. Early research shows that test consumers are more likely to think a wine is award winning if there’s a photo on the label. Mantonakis will study it further this year.
She is quick to add that the name of a winery isn’t everything. There are many other factors that influence consumer choices, including reputation, price and familiarity.
“It’s not just in the name,” she said. “Various things can influence the cognitive process.”
The lecture series begins next week with a presentation by Karl Kaiser, a CCOVI Professional Affiliate and co-founder of Inniskillin Wines, on Wednesday, Jan. 25. Mantonakis will present “Does a wine’s name influence consumer taste perception?” on Wednesday, Feb. 8 at 3 p.m. at Mackenzie Chown H313.