Checking the Facts: The Chivas Regal Story

Jul 13, 2012 | Writing A Book

We wanted to use a “classic” marketing example in a one section of a book my client was working on. The example he chose was the “Chivas Regal Effect.” I’d certainly heard of it. You may have heard it, too.

The story is that Chivas Regal was a struggling brand of scotch whiskey until they doubled their price. Then they not only made more money per bottle, they also doubled their unit sales. The example appears in several marketing books and has been cited in Time Magazine.

It’s a great example of the impact price can have on perceived value. It would be even better if the story was true. When we got to the part of the book where we wanted to use the story, we did some research so we could be sure we had the facts right.

We dug. We found many references to the story, but no details. We could verify that the price of a bottle of Chivas increased in the early 1950s and that there was also a dramatic increase in unit sales. But it turned out that there was more to the story.

Seagram purchased Chivas Regal in 1949. They pumped up the advertising budget dramatically. They used their distribution muscle to get Chivas on more shelves than ever. The price increase may have had an impact on unit sales, but it’s not likely that it had as much as increased advertising and distribution.

We couldn’t use the story the way we originally intended. We used other, verifiable, examples instead. And my client now uses the story of the Chivas Regal Effect as an example of why you shouldn’t believe every “true” story you read.

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