There are two key points of reference that a young person draws from their sense of identity from when it comes to drinking behaviour – advertising and role modelling. This post is about that beautifully inspiring yet disgustingly manipulative social metronome – advertising.
An interesting question – do you drink alcohol for the taste?
If you answered yes to this question, according to our research, you would be one in about 150. Go you.The rest of us, we mainly drink for the effect. Which is pretty logical, considering that alcohol, in most cases, actually tastes like crap. The truth is that it needs to be smothered in flavouring and sugar for us to be able to drink it. I guess there is the exceptions like wine connoisseurs…but you don’t find many cola or orange juice connoisseurs out there do you? Just saying.
So if it is really the effect we are after (in most cases)…why is it that we choose to drink this kind of beer over that, or that kind of vodka over that one? Especially if they are almost identical in flavour and colour?
One reason – advertising.
As much as we all like to think we are beautiful little snowflakes all our own individual identity, we are in many ways, symbiotically entwined with the consumer society in which we exist. We spend out days making economic decisions to consume symbols that express the identity within the culture we feel the most belonging to. Alcohol is just one such symbol.
Billions of dollars each year is spent on manipulating these symbols in the collective consciousness of society. I know this because I work in the industry. My job is to change peoples perception of brands in order to get them to want to connect their ‘personal brand’ (identity) with our client’s product, service or message and then inspire them to do something about it. It all sounds a bit evil doesn’t it? Maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t… on the other hand, without advertising, we wouldn’t have Obama, Cold Rock or newspapers.
Most people, that have half a brain can see how advertising influences our drinking behaviour.
‘Be fabulous’. ‘Honour the 80’. ‘Who is James Boag?’ ‘From where you would rather be’. ‘JAGERBOMB!’ When we consume any one of these aforementioned products we are consuming more than the liquid. We are subconsciously consuming symbols of what that liquid represents. We are subconsciously consuming millions of dollars that has been spent on convincing you that ‘this type of person drinks this type of drink’. Wether we like it or not, we are consuming an identity.
However, I don’t think banning alcohol advertising is the way at all! That’s cheating and it will only result in a short-term result anyway. I’m saying we should learn from it. We need to be better than it. The alcohol companies aren’t selling taste. They are selling an identity. So why can’t we use the same strategy to sell an aspiration identity of young people that don’t need to drink to excess to achieve all the things we drink for? Why do we have to barrage young people with an identity that they definitely don’t want to be associated with? Eg…
As a final note, I personally believe that a person is more than their ‘surface’ identity. I believe that underneath it all is a connecting energy that is what we are all are, were and will ever be. It is this deeper identity which cannot be learned, only revealed. However, our surface identity is something that we do learn. We do pick up little pieces of what we think represents us long the way. Whether that be from advertising, our environment or from those people that we are surrounded by i.e. friends, family and community. It’s how we roll.
Next week’s post will be on how role models influence our identity through drinking behaviours. Yew.
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That was an excellent graphic description of an irresponsible drinker.
I think the bottomline is still: if you can’t drink wisely, don’t drink at all- regardless of adverts.
Interesting idea, how powerful branding can be with alcohol.
You are right about the taste, that is probably why there will always be alcopops and kids will find ways to make the drinking experience more fun, with the mixers and juices etc… just go to a suburban house party or think back when you were younger.
I think there is one thing you forget to mention though, branding aside. Drinking from a young age is often the reason for higher consumption in the future (whatever the cause – could be environmental e.g. dad is a heavy drinker so u are used to growing up with drinks or social – mates all drink so u ought to) – before u know it – u are addicted to the taste of alcohol.
There is no doubt advertising definitely plays a major part of the culture of drinking but it can’t be cop all the blame. Perhaps if you understand the implications of heavy drinking from an early age, you will be less likely to abuse it ie. your body will literally break down quicker and you will probably breakdown earlier too. Precautionary measures may be more effective than curbing creative and sexy ideas branding measures can offer to seduce kids to drink.
ps. this is a massively complicated issue so i am not saying there is an easy way out. The brands projecting the ideal self concept their drink can offer is often effective to a degree but the social group’s tendencies tend to be the more powerful force for drinking a certain brand – like VB and NEW has been so effective for so long
Thats why i worry when binge drinking starts in animals …
I was surfing, looking for information for an alcoholics anonymous conference and found your article. My first impression is wow he is so right! The topic I was researching is Bottles as our symbol. I can relate about the “I am like those people drinking” I have been sober almost 6 years and I saw a Bacardi commercial for the mojitos, people dancing and drinking on a boat. I wanted one, I wanted to be there! Even though I am an alcoholic I HATE rum. Thanks for the insight! I will be recommending your page!