You’d have to be living under a rock to have missed the recent increase in binge drinking and alcohol-fuelled violence among Australians. It’s a scary shift of what used to be acceptable behaviour – having a few drinks with good friends formed part of the Aussie larrikin persona for years. But this loveable larrikin with a drinking problem could be your son, your friend, or your mother. Never has this issue been more in the spotlight than now, with prominent sports personalities making public claims that they have issues with alcohol consumption and the news outlet continuing to bring this discussion into the public debate.
This concern is hard to identify with if you’re not a binge drinker yourself, but as part of the alcohol industry, it’s time we all accepted that our product is having a negative social impact that can no longer be ignored.
Earlier this year (17 April 2013), the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education released its Annual Alcohol Poll. Yes, this is a lobby group and the Galaxy Research survey had only a small sample size of 1,533 people. However, their findings generate headlines that could influence consumers’ perception of the alcohol industry and influence our ability to market our products in the future.
MAJOR POINTS FROM THE ANNUAL ALCOHOL POLL
It was a 55-page report full of facts and figures. Just take a look at the most startling results:
I sat in the car listening to the talkback radio chatter about these findings. There were heartfelt stories shared by people struggling with their addictions and those watching their children suffer because they were consuming irresponsibly.
NATIONAL DRUG & ALCOHOL CENTRE RESEARCH
Then came another survey released last week by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at the University of NSW. One of the more disturbing findings was that more than 90% of men who drink alcohol to excess as teens keep doing so throughout their 20s. It goes to show that this isn’t experimental or a passing phase. The research, based on nearly 2000 Victorian teenagers aged between 14 and 17, was published in the British Medical Journal Open.
Director of the Public Health Advocacy Institute at Curtin University, Professor Mike Daube, said, “Easy access, lack of education and exposure to alcohol promotion are the key drivers that lead to excessive alcohol consumption.” This was endorsed on the weekend through more press talking about the issues around social media marketing of alcoholic beverages. See what the Herald Sun had to report.
It’s easy to put our head in the sand as marketers/producers of alcoholic products and pretend we’re not part of the problem, particularly if our products are at the top end of the market where prices are higher. But if our customers share the opinion that we should be doing something about it, shouldn’t we be listening to them?
Sixty-seven per cent of people surveyed felt that the alcohol industry needed to be doing something to address the concerns, yet only 5% of those surveyed thought that the industry was working to address the potential harm of their product, compared to 19% in the fast food industry and 13% in the gambling industry.
There are certainly ways we can start to think about marketing our brands more responsibly. The problem is, if we don’t start demonstrating how we are making a difference, we’ll be forced into a situation where regulations are mandated by the government.
WHAT CAN WE DO?
There are plenty of ways we can tackle the issues, from plain packaging and restricting the sale of alcohol to certain hours of the day to raising taxes on alcohol. Working with industry bodies is another way – on 16 August, The Winemakers’ Federation of Australia launched the Responsible Winery Initiative, urging all 2,800 Australian wineries to take nine simple steps at their cellar door and in their business. One of these steps is to use a standard cellar door tasting pour that can be easily equated to a standard drink, allowing tasters to measure exactly how much they’ve drunk over a period of time at any Australian winery.
The marketing recommendations in the initiative were to sign up for the Drinkwise Pregnancy Initiative, carry the approved Standard Drinks logo on all bottles, ensure compliance with the Alcohol Beverages Advertising Code, and establish clear guidelines for using social media. Businesses are also encouraged to develop a Workplace Alcohol Policy for staff.
A small way to make a difference is by thinking through the answers to these questions before we do our next promotion:
Let’s look beyond increasing sales and shifting volume through our stores. Wouldn’t it be great to know that our legacy as an industry has been responsible promotion, and that we tackled the issues head on, providing solutions for our future generations – not just within the industry but for our society as a whole.
There’s been lots of discussion over the past week about the introduction of Google’s own social network platform named Google +. Just two weeks since the initial beta launch there’s reports that there may be over 20 million users by the weekend.
Like the introduction of other new social media platforms, Google + will continue to evolve and release new functionality as they irons out bugs and gets functionality right. There’s a useful cheat sheet on mashable that explains some of the key terminology if you’ve just got involved and an introductory video that helps put the platform in context.
My initial thoughts:
Some may say that there’s enough time already spent updating existing social networks and we don’t need a new one added into the mix. However, as technology evolves, it’s pertinent to explore some of these new tools and consider how they may be integrated into your existing communications mix.
I already use google for so many of my online activities – google analytics for my website, key word tracking via Google alerts, ad words campaigns, email, google business etc., that I can see potential for this network if they get it right. With so much power in their search engine, google knows the importance of this social space. They are already showing some great features that will challenge their big rival Facebook including:
• Personalising Circles to share content– I love that I can build my own communities of interest and share relevant messages and content to a particular group without needing to share to everyone I’m connected with. Whilst there’s some ability to do this on Facebook with personal lists, this feature has much more relevance and reduces the risk of over-sharing if you set up the right circles from the outset.
• Hangouts present a real opportunity to connect and host discussions. These are basically a video chat room using your webcam – I’ve yet to explore it fully and it’s only basic functionality at the moment but I can see much broader relevance as this is rolled out for Virtual wine tastings, Customer Service responses etc.
• Google Sparks – a great way to find people with common interests and also source content to share with your own community. Rather than having to search using hashtags or key words via platforms like twitter this helps to organise content simply in a good stream of activity.
There’s already applications developed for some mobile phones (Iphone coming soon) allowing you to upload from your mobile and I suspect as the Beta testing gets more feedback we’ll see other functionality emerge – (already reports coming through that a new series of changes will emerge before the week end). You can also embed the +1 Function into your existing website to encourage sharing.
What about a business profile? Should I be setting one up?
If you’re a business/ winery thinking about setting up on Google + there’s no need to rush in and immediately set up an account. Google has indicated that they are working on a version for brands/ businesses that will be similar to Facebook Fan Pages to be released later in the year. Sit back and play with the consumer profile functionality for now and wait till the proper business platform is ready to be released.
Like any new platform, it will take time to learn and changes will constantly take place but it’s another opportunity to build a community and connect with people who have common interests. Need an invitation to get involved? Let me know or connect with me here.