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when you're inside the bottle,
you can't read the label

'Get out of the bottle so that you can read the label'.

Back at the time when I was in retail management I used a the phrase regularly - at that time I used it as an analogy meaning that if you are too close to a problem you can be too subjective, but if you take a step back you see a bigger picture and so can be objective. I don't know where I originally picked up the phrase. Not a book, I didn't read theorists back then. I've got a feeling it was from an old film - a detective saying it about a murder case perhaps? In my mind's eye I'd like it to be Humphrey Bogart or Steve MacQueen - someone cool, but that's not likely to be the case.

In recent years I have been using it in reference to website design - but it can work for all aspects of marketing.

In an e-marketing context I first used the phrase around the beginning 1999 when talking to some techies. I was trying to tell them that they were too infatuated with the coding of the site [the technical bit] and so were not seeing the site as the target audience would [the marketing bit].

I think it works well for websites, getting across a message that I have been eulogizing since I got involved in this e-commerce malarkey back in '96. That is that a commercial website is for its users. Not for its designers. Not for its publishers. Not for the CEO or MD of the organization whose site it is. Sadly, I come across far too many websites that are obviously not developed with the user - read customer - as the prime concern. Just to show that I am not alone in this way of thinking - usability guru, Jacob Nielsen says designers are not users.

In a wider marketing context 'when you're inside the bottle, you can't read the label' means that we - the marketers - should always look at the product / brand / organization from the perspective of the customer, not our own. Although I have adopted the phrase in this context, it is based on conventional marketing concept of perceptual mapping.

Of course it is always possible that I have picked up this use of the term from something I have heard [conference?] or read [book, article] - if you've seen or heard it elsewhere anytime this century drop me an email, it could be where I got it from.

How to cite this article:
Charlesworth, A. (2008). when you're inside the bottle, you can't read the label. Retrieved [insert date] from AlanCharlesworth.com: https://www.alancharlesworth.com/Alans-musings/inside-the-bottle.html

This page was first published around 2008 but may have been updated since then
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