Tuesday, February 7, 2023
Feb. 7, 2023

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Band tests Costco liquor and goes viral on TikTok

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A science experiment is underway in the kitchen of a Los Angeles home shared by five guys in their 20s, recorded for a video that will garner hundreds of thousands of views on TikTok.

The details matter. The liquids in both glasses need to be the same color, and the mix of gases (well, bubbles) has to reach the same level.

The control variable: orange juice. The test: Cook’s Champagne and Costco’s Kirkland Signature Champagne.

The question: Can it Kirkland?

Series host Johnny Hohman — wearing his signature flowery apron, string of pearls and red cat-eye sunglasses — prepares for his intro next to the kitchen’s butcher block.

“Hello,” he says to the camera, “and welcome to episode 25 of our series, ‘Can It Kirkland?’ where we try to determine the difference between name brand and Kirkland. Today’s drink is …”

From behind the camera, someone slams down the bottles, orange juice and glasses. They’re blind-testing mimosas, though Hohman doesn’t say the drink name out loud. More on that later.

This is the “Can It Kirkland?” series, named for Costco’s private label that has gained a cult following among bulk shoppers, deal finders and now, members of a California band who stumbled upon it while trying to save on their liquor bill. Whether for its consumer benefit, funny consistent sequence or catchy “Can It Kirkland?” jingle, the series has struck a chord on TikTok, where the videos have garnered more than 5.7 million likes.

In each video, the five men — all members of the band Never Ending Fall — take a substantial sample of a name-brand alcohol and compare it with its Kirkland Signature counterpart. If most can’t tell the difference, then It Can Kirkland. If they can identify the Kirkland brand, It Can’t Kirkland.

“We thought, ‘Who is going to watch this video?’” Conrad Boyd, guitarist and “Can It Kirkland” Contestant No. 1, said of the first one they made. Apparently, a lot of people watched.

The idea came about in the giant warehouse store. The band members had moved from Maryland to a house in L.A.’s West Adams neighborhood as they pursued music full time. The grocery bill added up fast, and they realized they could save money by buying in bulk, so they got a Costco card in Hohman’s name.

They ventured to the alcohol section and marveled at the “ridiculously oversized, extremely cheap bottles of liquor,” like the 1.75-liter bottle of American vodka for less than $20. Meanwhile, a Grey Goose bottle was around $40.

“That kind of just blew our minds,” vocalist and Contestant No. 2 Jack Miller said.

Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand, and the question of where the company sources its products, has amused and befuddled customers for years. The private label exceeded $59 billion in sales worldwide in 2021, according to Costco’s annual report, an increase of $7 billion from 2020.

The name is recognizable in the Puget Sound region, as the first Costco was in Seattle and the retail chain is now headquartered in Issaquah. As told in different stories over the years, the business leaders floated around “Seattle Signature” but couldn’t get a trademark, and “Issaquah” was too hard to spell.

“Kirkland” stuck, in warehouses and now on TikTok. In June, still amazed by their Kirkland discovery, the housemates decided to make a little video, drummer and Contestant No. 4 Tommy St. Clair said, to see if they could tell the difference between Kirkland’s tequila silver and Casamigos.

As guitarist and Contestant No. 3 Pearce Eisenhardt edited around 3 a.m., the others came up with a background song resembling music you might have heard in a grocery store in the 1990s. The melody: “Can It Kirklaaaaand?” (Casamigos could not Kirkland.)

Video views shot up, so they kept going. Their fourth video, comparing London dry gin to Bombay Sapphire, surpassed 4 million views. (The dry gin can Kirkland.) They kept the details of most videos the same, like Miller starting his Contestant No. 2 test by warmly embracing Hohman.

There are some subtle differences they made after they ran into an algorithm issue: Because they mentioned alcohol, the videos kept getting age-restricted, meaning that some users — even those over 21 — couldn’t see them. So Hohman now says a disclaimer at the beginning that they’re all over 21 and don’t condone underage drinking, and no one ever says words related to alcohol.

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