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What’s the drinks industry saying to you?

It’s tough old job trying to market something that can be as dangerous as alcohol. 

Join us for a little wander through some of the marvellous things the drinks industry would like to tell you about alcohol…and one or two things they’d rather keep quiet about.

“Life would be so boring without alcohol”

The advertising rules are pretty clear – alcohol companies can’t suggest that their products will make you more popular or successful. Not that this has slowed the flow of adverts showing alcohol as part of part of an attractive lifestyle packed with cool friends and lively events – fronted by celebs from Rihanna to David Beckham.

But the drink companies are really on to a winner if they can make alcohol part of stuff we love anyway – music, sport, movies or whatever. When they stamp their brand on a football team or a music festival, the message is clear – you’ll enjoy these things less without alcohol. When Carlsberg sponsored Liverpool FC they insisted their beer was now “part of the game”. Or as another company put it: “Every day, everywhere customers and consumers can rely on Diageo to help them celebrate life”.

“Mostly harmless” 

The Encyclopaedia Britannica describes getting drunk as “mild ethanol poisoning”. Yup, although you’ll never hear it in a drinks ad, alcohol is the chemical that put the “toxic” into “intoxication”. Anyone who’s  ever been drunk will know that an excess of alcohol will leave with a pounding head, a raging thirst, and a nagging feeling that you did something stupid. 

But the one thing the drinks industry needs to avoid is any suggestion that alcohol itself might be the problem, or that selling less of it might be the answer. Ever since they told us that Martini could be enjoyed “any time,any place, anywhere“, the drinks industry has been trying to make alcohol as normal as possible. That’s why you’ll find it stacked in the entrance of your local supermarket; on the aisles with the BBQ charcoal, the Easter eggs or the Christmas puddings; and even at the petrol station and the hairdresser’s.

“Blame the drinker, not the drink”

According to the spirits giant Diageo “some of our consumers cause harm to themselves and others when they drink irresponsibly”. One thing you’re unlikely to hear them or any other big drinks company acknowledge is that irresponsible ads or offers that encourage drinkers to buy more booze might be part of the problem. 

And in spite of all their talk about “responsible” drinking”, there’s a few double standards sometimes:   

  • Diageo  state that people drinking irresponsibly is “not good for them, for society, or for our reputation”. They also urge publicans “to increase spirit sales in your pub” by encouraging drinkers who order a single measure of spirits to “make it a double”
  • Carlsberg are “committed to…ensuring that our consumers are fully informed when making their choice” but also urged off-licenses to stack up beer “away from the beer fixture to drive impulse purchases”

What else is the alcohol industry up to?

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