Make Marketing History

The views of a marketing deviant.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Negative Marketing.

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.


Blogger Charles Edward Frith said...

I couldn't agree more. There are reasons why drink is worshiped as such a wonderful release in the UK.

All over the world when people make a criticism of the British to me, it's that we drink too much or too early. I think we need to understand more why people aren't comfortable in their own skins and need to get a skin full instead and like you I think there's a deeper social malaise. Maybe it starts at the family level and a general inability to communicate transparently.

3:25 PM, June 19, 2008  
Blogger Robert said...

This issue affects many countries however like football violence, the UK has been labelled the key/only offender.

Anyway, regardless of that I do believe there are a number of issues that are driving this 'binge drinking' mentality ... and while I am sure many will disagree with me, I think there are 4 major factors ...

1/ The loss of optimism and/or the realities of life hitting home.

I've written about this in the past [but linked to peoples increased use of drugs] however it seems to me that as people get older they either see no opportunites to get ahead in life [especially if they live in a less-than-fashionable city] or realise the promises they were given at school [good grades = good jobs] just aren't proving to be true so turn to drugs and drink for escapism and the feeling of being invincable and alive.

I'm not doing any justice to this point - but this is your blog not mine so I hope you get the jist of what I'm saying, even if you disagree.

2/ The mass distribution, availabilty and low price-point for alcohol

[Someone told me a litre of vodka can be bought in Sunderland for 1 pound 65 pence!!!]

3/ The rise of alchopops. These allow young drinkers to get a taste for alcohol because they taste more like a soft drink whereas if these products didn't exist and people started on more blatant alcohol tasting products, it could potentially put them off, or at least stop the 'speed consumption' habit.

4/ The Governments reluctance to take this issue on because they claim it encroaches on civil liberties.

I understand it's a fine line - but Governments are supposed to work in the best interests of the country - and whilst I am not advocating a paternal state like Singapore - I do think they need to make and take some hard decisions before this situation totally undermines the potential of both the young and Britain as a whole.

Right, I'll get off my soap box and go and hide from the Government Police, ha!

6:03 PM, June 19, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi John,

It was good meeting you last week at the VCCP launch campaign. I like your take on things. The ads certainly won't stop binge drinking but I think the shaming aspect might work with the target group... I loved the campaign. What did you think about it?

6:15 AM, June 23, 2008  
Blogger john dodds said...

Hi Lolly,

I guess I think that the lack of explicit examples of third-party disgust in the campaign suggests that the focus is on self-shaming and I believe (perhaps wrongly) that one need to reach or approach rock-bottom before that occurs.

I agree with Charles's concurrence that something deeper is going on here and believe that Rob's list are not causes but contributary factors that facilitate it. Moreover, the last time he bought vodka the price probably was 1.65!

5:48 PM, June 24, 2008  
Blogger Eaon Pritchard said...

re: the smoking thing, I think legislation was a biggie. it's now so inconvenient to smoke.
I'd prefer to see investment in some kind of committment that promotes/rewards the benefits of not drinking like a twat and re: Robs point 1 - encouragement for people to take responsibility for their own lives etc.

6:04 AM, June 26, 2008  

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