Can responsible drinking campaigns from brands be effective?

The issue of responsible drinking is likely to come back on the agenda. Recent evidence from Scotland suggests that a fall in alcohol sales is due to the ban on multi-buy promotions. Irrespective of whether the ban has really worked and if so, how far, it is likely to encourage anti-alcohol campaigners to lobby for further restrictions on the sector.

The industry has its own self-regulatory body, the Portman Group whose code of practice stipulates the restrictions on the naming and promotion of drinks brands. The most recent version of the code came into force this month. There’s also the work of educational charity Drinkaware who are also funded by the sector. It’s campaigns include “Don’t Let the Good Times Go Bad” supported through TV, press and online activity.

So should brands themselves be producing responsible drinking campaigns? Or should the sector support the overarching work of bodies like Drinkaware? We started thinking about this when we saw two very contrasting initiatives. Between them they represent very different levels of investment, results and the scope to really influence behaviour.

First up is Bacardi’s Champions Drink Responsibly campaign. This was a big-budget piece fronted by Rafa Nadal with la website and a dedicated Facebook page. There was also video content including this:

The Facebook page boasts over 834,000 likes though whether this is campaign followers or simply part of the follower aggregation offered through global brand pages is difficult to tell. Judged on the content, the latter seems most likely. This is an awful campaign which patronises the brands’ audience without providing any meaningful content. This seems to be aimed more at regulators and politicians. It about being seen to be doing the right thing.

Our second campaign is from Brazilian beer Antarctica. As sponsors of the Rio carnival they wanted to do something which encouraged responsible drinking. The result was beer turnstiles:

This shows what can be done with a real objective and creativity. The aim: to reduce the number of revellers getting into their cars with the resultant problems this creates. The outcome is a clever method of getting carnival goers to use public transport. The mechanic was simple – scan your empty beer can and travel home for free. Simple yet effective as the results show.

The difference between the two approaches is stark. By focussing on a very specific event and how they might help alleviate a common problem Antarctica have genuinely influenced behaviour in a positive way. It’s also done it in a way that’s credible to the brand’s fans. Compare this with Bacardi who have taken a one-size fits all approach. Yet has this done anything tangible to reduce consumption, drink driving or any other negative aspect of drinking?

There’s a fine line for brands here. Too preachy and they risk alienating their consumers. Bacardi certainly risk a backlash. Drinks consumers don’t expect to be sold the product on the one hand and told off by the other. As the beer campaign demonstrates they do respond when treated as adults. Based on these two projects big certainly isn’t better. Clever is better for both the brand and it’s audiences.

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Categories: Alcohol, Beer and ale, Marketing, Responsible Drinking

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