Marketing is everything that connects a provider of products and services to the meeting of specific customer needs. It's usually all about helping and/or persuading people actively to do something. In contrast, governmental marketing is often about persuading citizens not to do something. It's an intriguing mind-shift. Do you lecture, humour or shock or do you reframe the negative as a positive. And which works best?
At the launch of the latest anti-binge drinking campaign, the windows of an empty building in Covent Garden were filled with tableaux illustrating the various TV ads that have been created. It's looking at the problem from a different angle (as I do with these photos from behind the shop window) and seems to take the reframing route. They show people the downside of binge-drinking and suggest that "you wouldn't start the evening like this, so why would you end it like this?"
Even in the daylight when the windows were suffering from sun glare, it was evident that people were being stopped in their tracks and laughing at the tableaux. But is laughter the right route and how long before someone posts an online image of their replicating the actions against the respective windows?
Are soiled home furnishings really the key impact of binge drinking? Or is it damage to your health and personal reputation? If you dont want to shock by showing twenty-something cirrosshis patients (of which there is a growing epidemic), then why not focus on how unattractive it makes you by showing the reaction of members of the opposite sex to drunken antics? Though, of course, the secret to making smoking socially unacceptable was the focus on its health consequences.
At the launch, there was talk of drunkeness as a cultural norm, but that's the consequence not the cause and leads to the "cheap alcohol" red-herring. To my eyes, binge-drinking is much more about lowering one's social inhibitions and it occurs also in Scandanavia and Japan where alcohol is far from cheap but emotions are also repressed. If you want to change behaviour, then perhaps it's fruitful to investigate the reasons for the behaviour as well as the consequences. But politicians and civil servants do that even more rarely than marketing directors.