Enough of nanny brands – be creative without smothering

MaryLou Costa is a key member of the Marketing Week features team and her blog brings her unique Australian perspective to brands. She also oversees the Market Research Focus weekly bulletin.

I almost choked on my morning vodka when I read the recent story that Asda and Diageo have joined forces to help educate consumers on alcohol units.

The initiative gave away 20,000 unit measuring cups this bank holiday to “help customers pour accurate measures”, alongside the implementation of an interactive kiosk to help shoppers keep their drinking in check.

I absolutely commend both brands’ effort and contribution towards the Government’s Social Responsibility Deal, where brands have pledged to help tackle issues such as obesity and binge drinking.

But is Asda and Diageo’s ‘unit’ campaign really going to make a difference? I already can foresee the result of the giveaway of 20,000 unit measuring cups this weekend – youths at the Notting Hill Carnival would have used them to measure out shots of whatever booze they have smuggled in, while more boring people will use them to measure out things like cough syrup.

No one in their right mind is going to turn up at a party with their Asda/Diageo branded measuring cup so they can sensibly pour out single unit measures of whatever tipple is in their hip flask while their friends watch on in eager anticipation.

Neither are busy shoppers going to be inclined to waste time checking in at the interactive kiosk to tally up their drinking units for the week only to be told they are drinking too much.

I understand that there are continued misconceptions about what constitutes a single unit of alcohol and how many alcohol units can be consumed without being detrimental to your health, but I think this is the kind of material most appropriate for a blanket broadcast message.

If brands want to help prise people away from bad drinking habits, they need to think more creatively. Asda as a supermarket can promote recipe ideas for non-alcoholic cocktails, and while this isn’t exactly in Diageo’s interests, it could still give suggestions for tasty mixers to go with that one unit.


Brands can also hold or support non-drinking events, such as non-drinking, activity themed experiential campaigns, or even charitable causes. Such as Dry July which is popular in Australia and people pledge to not drink for a whole month and raise money to help fight cancer.

Again this may not suit Diageo to promote not drinking at all. But I think it could approach this much more creatively and productively, for example; as I wrote in my web column last week, actually going into schools to educate people about drinking, as resource-strapped teachers are looking more to brands to help lessen their burden.

I think it would be a much better use of marketing budget than producing 20,000 measuring cups that are going to end up misused, or even in the bin.

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