Youth: A Challenging Proposition

September 14th, 2012 | Posted in: Features

The youth market, which is key to the success of pubs and clubs, bar and restaurants and brands, has become one of the most difficult age groups to market to. Why? Because the anti-alcohol police are determined to cut outalcohol advertising, and as a result drinks companies are bending over backwards to adhere to the Portman’s voluntary code.
The thinking is that if they can show thatthey can regulate themselves then ‘big brother’ won’t. Personally I think this could be a lost cause. Particularly since our new health secretary Alex Neil, in his first address to the Scottish media (Scotland on Sunday) warned of a “renewed crackdown on excessive drinking.”
However in the event that we can circumvent a complete ban on alcohol advertising brands are, in the main, adhering to the strict guidelines set down by The Portman Group and the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).
I would imagine most publicans and bar owners are not aware how hard it is for marketeers to get their message across that their brands are worth sampling, without breaking the rules. And of course, at the same time, promoting sensible drinking. We have the strictest rules in the world when it comes to alcohol marketing. For instance one of the rules is the ban on using people who look like, or who are, under 25. While the ASA rules which apply across all media and are mandatory, place a particular emphasis on protecting young people. “Therefore alcohol ads must not be directed at people under 18 or contain anything that is likely to appeal to them by re-electing youth culture or by linking alcohol with irresponsible behaviour, social success or sexual attractiveness.”
But there are lots of other considerations too. A recent meeting with the Daily Record to go over Pub Month marketing material was a prime example. Their creative guys had come up with pictures of various groups of people enjoying a drink at the pub. There was a woman with a child… supposed to emphasis the child friendly qualities of pubs… but no, this was deemed to suggest a single mum might take her child to the pub! Another picture of a child laughing at a table in a pub was also not appropriate due to the fact the child looked like she was enjoying herself too much. This wasn’t all, a picture of three girls perched at the bar, also ran foul of
Portman Group guidelines the cheeky message on her t-shirt was inappropriate. As we scratched our heads with disbelief,
it began to dawn on me how dif_cult it is these days to come up with a campaign that is effective but doesn’t run foul of the
authorities.
Even the biggest companies, who do their very best to comply, still sometimes come up against the alcohol police. For instance Smirnoff came under the spotlight recently because they had created a Smirnoff advert featuring Madonna on stage. A complaint was made saying that the advert would encourage youngsters not yet 18 to drink. However the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) concluded that Madonna’s fans were primarily those who enjoyed her tunes in the 1980’s and therefore were old enough to drink. And most recently Absolut had to defend itself when Alcohol Concern lodged a complaint because it considered that the Absolut London campaign, which centred on a series of cartoon characters would have a strong niche appeal amongst under-
18s. However the Independent Complaints Panel for alcohol marketing ruled that it wouldn’t. Henry Ashworth, Chief Executive
of the Portman Group, which provides the secretariat for the Independent Complaints Panel, said, “The Panel has ruled that
Absolut London has not broken responsibility rules and the company worked to ensure that the characters did not appear
to be under 25.”
Over the last decade there has been a definite shift to more conservative attitudes towards alcohol promotions. For instance despite Stiffy’s, the 10 year old Scottish owned brand, was only banned from using the name last year. The Portman Group decided
the name of the brand was no longer appropriate and the company had to change its brand name to Stivy’s. The Portman Group ruled that the ‘brand name had associations with sexual success’ and although admitting that the name had come before it in 2004
where the complaint was not upheld, in 2011 when the complaint was made again…the Portman Group upheld it due to the changes “in the prevailing social climate.”
So, as you can see, it isn’t easy being a brand marketeer these days. After all it is legal to drink over the age of 18, therefore over 18’s can buy alcohol, but how do you get them to buy your brand without encouraging them to drink? There used to some great advertising out there. But lately it has definitely been more muted. The fun and cheeky element of youthful brand advertising has been knocked out of it by the alcohol watchdogs, and it bdoesn’t look like it will be coming back. Brand owning companies
would argue that alcohol advertising doesn’t encourage people to drink more, but to switch brands.
This is where bar owners and their staff come in. The more knowledgeable bar staff are at recommending drinks the better.
Many brands have gone down the social media route – facebook, websites and such like. However according to research from ICM, although social media is important with regard to engaging this age group, traditional media is still most likely to generate a response from the 18-24 year old market. In fact the research showed that young adults are slightly more likely to buy a product or service after seeing a promotion advertising on TV that the general population (28%) compared to 27% of all consumers. Seven percent responded to promotions on social networking sites and only 3% of young adults respond to material sent to their mobile phones. It seems that the youth market although made up of highly active consumers, who have cash to splash, don’t respond to promotions. So, what do they respond to – peer pressure?
Student buy-in is critical to the success of many brands, because they represent half of the youth market. And a lot of time and effort
is made to appeal to this segment especially around the all important ‘freshers week’.
If you have an outlet that appeals to 18 to 25 year old customers, it’s important that you are stocking the right brands, because
students like every other market, gravitate towards bars and clubs that they feel most comfortable in, and that goes for the brands they stock. But if you are producing any material, which has alcohol branding on it, to attract customers to your bars or clubs you also are governed by the rules of alcohol promotion… therefore no under 25 year olds! You need to watch your websites too… have you got any pictures of under 25 year olds enjoying alcohol? Do some of them look inebriated? Ignorance may be bliss, but anyone
retailing alcohol can’’t afford to run foul of anyone in this climate. The most successful youth brands in recent years have been
undoubtably Jagermeister and Red Bull, and Jack Daniel’s and Coke…it’s no coincidence that the reason that these brands
have done well and continue to appeal, is that the popular combinations include a mixer, and both examples have a good
bar call. But at the end of the day it all comes down to taste, and uneducated palates still prefer a sweeter drink. Another reason that these brands do well is that people ask for the brand by name, which is where vodka falls down…despite the marketeers efforts, the most common bar call is a vodka and coke. Bartenders may ask what brand customers would prefer, but still vodka rules ‘the call’. Although anecdotal evidence from bar and club owners suggests that students are moving away from budget brands to more premium brands, such as Smirnoff, and many bars and clubs are now putting Smirnoff back on their speed rails.
Over the last decade RTD’s (Ready to drink) have gone out of fashion, with only the stalwarts such as WKD, Crabbies and
Smirnoff Ice still selling well. However the market is still worth some £655m, in Scotland that would equate to £65m.
Recently there has been a flurry of new or relaunched RTD’s.
Global Brands has relaunched Reef and Hooch, the latter was the original lemon RTD that de_ ned the Brit Pop generation. It now has a new tagline, ‘Refreshment with Bite’ while The Beam Spirits and Wine company launched its first RTD product Sourz
Fusion. The importance of bars and student venues particularly to this category should not be underestimated. If
bars and clubs are not stocking the brands, the chances are students won’t be drinking them. In the last year or so there have been few new launches targeted at the youth market. Red Stag… the Cherry flavoured bourbon from Jim Beam; and the newly launched Dragon Soop.
It is aimed at clubbers and bar customers, who routinely buy vodka and an energy drink. This new ‘enhanced alcoholic beverage’ in a can, comes in at 8% abv and contains vodka, caffeine, taurine, guarana (2 units per 250ml can). It comes in four flavours – Herbal Fusion, Sour Apple, Blue Raspberry and Lemon & Lime.
Paul Burton Director of Corinthian Brands Ltd, the folk behind the brand, says, “Dragon Soop has been launched principally through
social media. The consumer response to the brand has been exceptional and has resulted in it creating a vibrant new niche in the off-trade. All the indications are that sales of the 250ml size will be just as successful in the on-trade.”
There’s also Jeremiah Weed, the alcoholic root beer from Diageo which has the novelty factor of being served in a jam jar. Initial activity for this brand focussed on experiential work intended to appeal to young men.
But the general move has been towards bringing out new flavours rather than new brands for the youth market. The advantage
there would be that in these days of _financial uncertainty a familiar brand name is worth paying a bit more for. So you have
a myriad of Smirnoff _flavours, the new Jack Daniel’s Honey, and if Bacardi brings its US marketing over here, expect to
see Bacardi flavours such as Black Razz and Rock coconut. If companies are not bringing out brand extensions they are doing is bringing to our attention longer serves. For instance F NV Absinthe is now being promoted as a long drink where it was
once mainly drunk as a shot. What is for certain is that engaging the youth market has always been a challenge, but it is getting more challenging by the day.


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