Quiz 15: Consumerism


The company AB introduced new merchandise to appeal to 21-30-year-olds guzzlers called S, which is a caffeinated sweetened alcohol beverage containing 12 percent of alcohol and came in four flavors. Drinkers could swallow down in one shot or mix it with beer or cocktails. For advertising the product, the company built a shaded website that displayed ingredients of S, which attracted minors. Although AB made no extensive media promotion on its new brand, positive reviews appeared on the mainstream media. S became a popularized beverage with its sales escalating because of its small size and varied flavors, attracting minors. S, despite its popularity, encountered an unexpected eruption from several anti-alcohol activities or self-appointed people who guard the public against the ills of alcohol. It began when the Center for Public Science, a watchdog, pointed S as a deliberate attempt of Anheuser-Busch to get youngsters engrossed in consuming alcohol since it contained sweet flavors. The company was criticized for not mandating age requirements when buying S, making made teen-friendly website, and introducing as caffeine since energy drinks are popular among teenagers. Various organizations such as PE mile insisted that minors could sneak small S containers in their pouches and purses and some other organization labeled it as outrageous. In addition, the state M Police placed officers on an alarm to check for tiny S containers, specifically in women's clutches. With the backlash received from different groups, the company decided to discontinue the beverage. Despite being an innovative drink that challenged conventional alcoholic beverages, S became merchandise that only drew adolescents. Assessing from the lens of public interest, the product S cannot be deemed as a sound product. The company AB's original attempt of appealing its new product S to young adults from the age of 21-30 failed, instead, it became a commodity that primarily attracted teenagers into alcohol. Therefore, it was a wise move of AB to abandon the product S. Moreover, the advertising technique of S increased and encouraged alcohol consumption and targeted mainly teenagers.

The industry segments in the alcohol industry: beer, wine, and spirits are all governed by voluntary codes to regulate advertising behavior. All the alcoholic beverages strongly comply with the provisions of these codes in order to function in the market. It is important to understand that the policies in these codes are very comprehensive and specific. All the beer brands are bound by the Beer Institute's advertising and marketing code. As such none of the beer marketers broadcast ads which depict excessive consumption, intoxication and drunk driving. Beer ads do not have symbol, language, music, gesture, or cartoon character with the intention to appeal to under-aged consumers. The distilled spirits makers are bound by the 'code of good practice for distilled spirits advertising and marketing'. No such marketer uses any sexual promiscuity in promoting its brands, however depiction of affection or similar gestures is allowed. Further it cannot be denied that there is a sizeable market for alcohol consumption in the country. However alcohol marketers promote responsible consumption at the same time. Several companies broadcast messages to convey moderation in drinking and safe driving. AB's 'alert cab' is a sponsored designated-driver program under which free taxi rides are given to customers who frequent restaurants and bars and indulge in drinking. Further, the Distilled Spirits council funds those college programs where students are taught moderation in drinking and bartenders are trained to serve drinks in permissible limits. All alcoholic beverages marketers today follow the CH guidelines for restrictions on advertising. As such only such ads are produced which promote a legal alcoholic product with accurate objective information. The ad should not be misleading; otherwise it is not justified for receiving protection. Thus a compliant alcohol ad adheres to labelling requirements including mandatory specification of legal age drinking. As such above steps by the marketers prove that today alcoholic beverages companies fulfill their ethical duty to be informative and truthful in advertising. In doing so, they minimize potential harm to society from underage drinking.

The anti-alcohol movement works to ban or restrict the advertising of alcoholic beverages by exposing the messaging in these ads. Its attack on these ads is based on planks which have been found to be true in many cases. Some alcohol brands and their advertisements will be discussed in this context. The first plank is the relation between advertising and consumption. It will be illustrated here with two ads which use manipulative messaging tactics to increase brand patronage. Brand MLB's punchline of its beer says 'Put a little weekend in your week'. It tries to convince weekend social drinkers to replicate the weekend drinking habit on working days too. The message intends to thereby promote additional drinking and increase the consumption of its brand. Occasional drinkers are thus prone to becoming habitual drinkers through this ad. On its part, MLB is trying to append its market base by adding more consumers in this segment. PP (polygamy porter), a beer brand of WSTH brewery uses the analogy of polygamy and coins its slogan 'Why just have only one!' Now the messaging in this ad based on its promiscuous content (having more than wife) will prod occasional drinkers to consume more. The ad is misleading for its wrong portrayal in influencing the drinkers to add one more beer brand to their intake. Some alcohol advertisers use marketing tactics on the internet, a medium heavily used by those who fall below the legal age for drinking. Alcohol brands like ML, BL, and CM deploy sponsored/social networking sites with features like games, apps, blogs, and music - something for which under-aged audience have a natural affinity. Thus these brands employ viral marketing to attract this most vulnerable consumer segment. Alcohol marketers also use their brands for placements in children movies, and their brand logos on clothing such as T-shirts and on toys. Again realize that by doing so, the advertisers help in making the underage audience develop a strong brand recall and start drinking as a consequence.