Authors: Geoffrey Munro & Johanna de Wever
Title: Culture clash: alcohol marketing and public health
Journal: Drug and Alcohol Review, March 2008, 27, 204-211
Objective: The ‘four Ps’ of the marketing mix are used to illuminate ways in which the alcohol industry uses its freedom to expand the place of alcohol within society and the own image. It is examined to what degree the interests of the alcohol industry conflicts with the interests of public health.
Design: Opinion paper based on existing literature
Setting: The marketing practices of the alcohol industry in Australia are highlighted.
Methods: Product differentiation, reduction of Price, the expansion of Place and the growth of Promotion are reviewed to examine the marketing practices of the alcohol beverage industry in Australia.
Findings: The report illustrates that the marketing practices of the alcohol industry in Australia is in conflict with the picture of a ‘friendly industry’ in which an aim of public health is shared in which alcohol problems will be limited. It is likely that the development of alcopops / premixes will facilitate ‘over consumption’, especially as they are targeted implicitly towards young people who seek ‘determined drunkenness’. A reduction in the price of alcohol that is achieved through assertive discounting by packaged liquor licensees, with the complementary encouragement for consumers to buy in large quantities, offends explicitly the principle that a ‘friendly industry’ admits that alcohol is a potentially dangerous product and should not be regarded as a commodity to be sold cheaply and freely as other ordinary products. The process in which mainstream supermarkets transfer their alcohol licenses from their next-door bottle-shop to the grocery shelves, as alcohol gains the status of a normal grocery item is in compliance with this principle as well.
An expansion in the physical availability of alcohol through the deregulation of licensing and the consequent growth of outlets, particularly large discount chains, contributes to the pressure for retailers to lower prices. It also reverses a traditional public health policy in Australia (of restraining the number of venues) and therefore would infringe the principle that a ‘friendly industry’ should not subvert public education messages or public health policies enacted to ensure safer use of its product.
Finally, the general refusal of industry to adhere to the formal advertising Code and its evasion of the Code via the sponsorship of sport infringes the principle that promotion and advertising may not make false assumptions or encourage over consumption or target vulnerable populations. It often infringes the other mentioned principles as well.
Conclusion Authors: The marketing practices mentioned in the report indicate that it is difficult for the industry and public health sector to find common ground, because if successful, the national Strategy’s aim of reducing the incidence of intoxication among drinkers must reduce consumption levels, which is not in the industry’s interest of maximizing consumption in order to stay alive and grow in a competitive market-place.
This account illustrates the conflict of the industry’s interest between self-regulation and maximizing sales of alcoholic beverages. It shows that, in the case of Australia, self-regulation of alcohol marketing is in itself not the most adequate way to protect public health. The general ideas derived from this paper will probably be valid in other (national) settings as well.