This paper is a reaction paper on Jackson, Hastings, Wheeler, Eadie, and MacKintosh study (2000) Marketing Alcohol to Young People: Implications for Industry Regulation and Research Policy. Jackson et al. (2000, p. 597) argue that alcohol has become a worldwide business. The liquor industry is using aggressive promotion strategies that have resulted in an increase in the value. The youth want to correspond to their brand labels and symbols in recent years. According to Jackson et al. (2000), the alcoholic beverage industry has responded to changing youth trends by designing hard drinks that appeal to young people through using precise and well-informed strategies of marketing. It conceited and unprecedented the focus on the youth as a new alcohol market niche. It has triggered mounting fears about the consequences of public health and a call for stricter regulations to control alcohol marketing and promotional practices.
From Jackson et al.s (2000) observation of the United Kingdoms alcohol regulations, it is apparent that alcohol controls are spasmodic and reactive. Furthermore, the existing system of voluntary policies gives an impression of ineffectiveness. Apart from the ineptitude of the current government regulatory measures, marketing is also stimulating the demand for alcoholic products among youngsters. According to Jackson et al. (2000, p. 597), marketing can be viewed as bringing about needless needs and desires, where the public is taken as plain, susceptible and easily swayed by an invincible, scheming and manipulative industry. In most instances, people are independent and rational decision makers, with their innate needs, which they try to satisfy using the goods and services they choose. However, marketing tools and techniques can be used to encourage the adoption of certain behaviours that the public would not have adopted it not for marketing.
Key Themes on Marketing Ethics
One major aim of marketing is to ensure customers to buy the products and/or services they need to meet their needs and maximise their satisfaction (Seligman 2012, p. 128). Barnes (2012, p. 80) argues that an organization should determine the desires, wants, and interests of its targets markets. Afterwards, the company should deliver the desired satisfaction more effectively and efficiently than its competitors in such a manner that improves or maintains the consumers and societys well-being. Arguing from a social and ethical marketing perspective, Donovan and Henley (2010, p. 174); as well as Barnes (2012, p. 81) observe that pure marketing principles are not adequate within this age of environmental problems, resource shortages, cultural shifts, neglected social services, and worldwide economic setbacks. These authors ask whether firms that sense, serve, and satisfy individual wants are always doing what is best for consumers and society in a long run.
Place New Order
From the observation by Seligman (2012); Donovan and Henley (2010); as well as Barnes (2012), pure marketing concepts and methods usually overlook at the possible conflicts between short-run consumers wants and long-run clients welfare. This observation has been echoed by Jackson et al. (2000) noticing that there are the changing trends in marketing of alcohol towards pushing young people to drink more. There has been an increase in the number of youths drinking. Various studies have found that alcohol initiation usually begins at the age of 11. According to Jackson et al. (2000), the research shows that the proportion of young people who take alcohol, the volume consumed on each drinking occasion, and the percentage experiencing intoxication grows with some age. Much of this undesired statistics is due to aggressive marketing principles and methods adopted by the alcohol industry. However, the particular concerns or issues contribute to the increased youth alcoholism, except aggressive marketing. These problems form the main themes Jackson et al. (2000) explore.
Why Young People Drink
Jackson et al. (2000) observe that there is an increase in the aspect of youth and underage alcoholism. In fact, the number escalates annually. Relying on the studies conducted in the United Kingdom, Jackson et al. (2000) notice the following fact. The United Kingdom has one of the highest underage drinking intoxication rates in Europe. According to Asthana and Halliday (2006, p. 71), young people tend to create their culture powered by self-image, need to be accepted, and peer influence. Falk and Falk (2005, p. 42) have observed adolescents and young adults, particularly those at the age of high school and college. The scholars have noticed that they form a culture of engaging in the social situations pressuring participants to drink far more alcohol than they would ever choose without that impact. The cultural phenomena or the youth culture help to explain youth behaviours, including alcohol use. Falk and Falk (2005, p. 42); and Myers and Isralowitz (2011, p. 113) further argue that alcohol is valued among adolescents, distinctively, in the development, socialization, while integrating with peer groups, and while negotiating their passage into the adult world.
The youth culture has gone through some significant transformations with the major shifts in leisure and consumption patterns. According to Asthana and Halliday (2006), values are changing. Young people are creating for themselves a more definitive position in the society. The growing youth culture is evident in what has been referred to as Generation X. It is evident together with the use of brand labels and associated product imagery to express group allegiance and individuality (Jackson et al. 2000, p. 598; McCreanor, Lyons, Griffin, Goodwin, Barnes & Hutton 2012, p. 118; Forbes 2006). It is apparent in the brand choices which the youth make in a wide array of product and service categories, starting from clothing, mobile phones, and clubbing to music. It is worth mentioning that the media has contributed to these changes in the youth culture. Therefore, the alcohol industry also plays a crucial role in these shifts. The liquor field has been using marketing to exploit these youth social processes and stimulate the demand for alcohol.
According to Myers and Isralowitz (2011), in the media, government, and broader societal culture, alcohol use is portrayed as mature, sexy, sophisticated, and leading to social acceptance as well as facilitating social interaction. Moreover, it is defined as a tension reducer and within ethnic, social religious, and countercultural youth cultures, alcohol together with drug use is seen as a rite of passage to adulthood. Much of its positive perception is fed to young brains primarily by the media and, secondarily, by older peers or relatives. The latter ones also received the information from the media via aggressive and effective marketing by liquor manufacturers. According to Gordon, Moodie, Eadie, and Hastings (2009, p. 268), the drinking culture among the youth or, specifically, the youth culture is a product of alcohol and other manufacturers targeting youngsters.
Gordon et al. (2009) argue that the evolution of the youth culture is a creation of expansion for the marketization and commodification of youth. Increasingly, young people are seen as a money-spinning niche consumer market, predominantly in relation to fashion, new media, technology, and lifestyle merchandises. In parallel, novel strategies determined at consumers have been developed and briskly accepted by youngsters. These ways include viral marketing, blogs, and social network marketing. Jackson et al. (2000) single out other recent developments in marketing with a focus on product branding as bait to the brand-sensitive youth. These current strategies suggest that product branding has come out as a fundamental factor that influences consumption choices and behaviour. According to Jackson et al. (2000, p. 598), young people, unlike adults, are more brand-selective and particularly sensitive to brand messages. Consequently, product branding and psychological benefits that marked goods avail have also been extended to alcohol.
How the Alcohol Market Is Changing
Jackson et al. (2000) observe that, over the recent years, the brewing industry has been designing new alcohol products and transforming the traditional pub in an effort to capture the new youth market. This shift of attention towards the young direction has been in line with Gordon et al.s (2009) argument of marketization and commodification of youngsters. In recent years, manufacturers of fashion, new media, technology, and lifestyle merchandise from diverse industries have started viewing young people as a money-spinning niche consumer market. The alcohol industry has not been left out of this wave of youth culture as it tries to capture this youth market experimenting with other competing types of corporeal and psychological stimulation like illicit drugs. According to Gordon et al. (2009) and Jackson et al. (2000), the alcohol industrys reaction to the youth market changes has been to re-commodify alcoholic products or reposition liquor to take an advantage of these cultural drifts.
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Drink manufacturers today no longer view themselves as in the alcohol industry, but in the mood altering substances businesses. Viewed from this angle, the expansion in the use of recreational drugs has been dynamic. It has been redefining how the liquor production communicates to young consumers, availing personalised need gratification through the selection of designer hits (Jackson et al. 2000, p. 599). The concept of designer drinks is also echoed by Hughes, MacKintosh, Hastings, Wheeler, Watson, and Inglis (2007), who argue that they appeal to the youth more than conventional drinks. The latter ones are predominantly attractive to those ones at the age of 14-16. Additionally, the designer drinks consumption is associated with drinking in less controlled settings, heavier drinking, and more drunkenness. In connection with some alcohol brands, Jackson et al. (2000) observe that there is a levelling off in the use of dance drugs or hallucinates among young people. Alcohol seems to replace them.
The shifts and dynamics of the youth culture have been closely monitored by the alcohol industry. This business has responded to these trends by a guided, systematic, and extensive market research program. Jackson et al. (2000, p. 599) observe that this market research serves several needs. The shifts and dynamics of the youth culture are in line with two recent trends in the alcohol market. Jackson et al. (2000) notice these directions are a move towards internationalization through a series of take-overs and a change towards innovation and product diversification. These developments have young people as their target market.
Jackson et al. (2000) observe four critical changes in the alcohol industry in response to the transformation of youngsters trends. The first change involves the development of new trendy drinks like alcoholic energy drinks, flavoured beverages, and alcopops among others. The second shift is an increase in strength of alcoholic products in unswerving competition with the banned psychoactive substance market. The third change is the use of sophisticated marketing, advertising and branding methods to institute alcohol products that find their expression in developing youth cultures and lifestyles. The fourth one involves opening of new drinking outlets like club bars, theme pubs, and cafe bars, designed especially for the youth market.
Existing Regulation on Alcohol Marketing
Jackson et al. (2000) observe that the United Kingdom relies on a combination of legislation and self-regulation to govern the promotion, selling, and intake of alcoholic drinks by youngsters. Additionally, the UK uses taxation and distribution licensing to control general alcohol consumption and product safety controls to regulate the maximum ethanol content on different beverages. However, Jackson et al. (2000); Giesbrecht et al. (2004); and McCreanor et al. (2005) note that the laws governing the marketing of alcohol products to youngsters have been piecemeal, reactive, ad hoc, and weak. Moreover, it has failed to keep pace with recent developments by the alcohol industry targeting the youth market. The result of this failure is the prominence of industry self-regulation likely to prove untenable given the continual growth of the youth market and intensification of competition. According to Roche, Steenson and Andrew (2012), these weak legislations signify a familialisation of pubescent drinking.
According to Hastings, Anderson, Cooke and Gordon (2005, p. 300), alcohol regulation, specifically industry self-regulation, is an oxymoron. Industry self-regulation has often been promoted as an ideal solution, rather than having the government interfering in the marketplace. However, a rather frequent self-regulation appears to be adopted to deflect government actions. It is more honoured in the breach than in observance (Hastings et al. 2005, p. 301; Sandrac & Kyliem 2011, p. 887). According to McCreanor, Barnes, Kaiwai, Borell and Gregory (2008), an area that has experienced the full brunt of weak regulating is the sphere of sport sponsorship. Game sponsorship across Europe is very lightly regulated. As such, it has become an attractive means of promoting alcohol brands. It has not been definitively established that sports sponsorship encourages drinking among young people. However, the notion of having a beer brand emblazoned across the chest of an attractive, highly paid, fit and macho sports personality evidently counter the UKs alcohol industrys code of practice. According to Szmig, Griffin, Hackley, Bengry-Howell and Mistral (2011), the notion is amplified if a young man is exposed in the press drunk on the arms of an attractive young woman.
From Casswells (2012, p. 480) observations, the alcohol industry is keen to maintain the association between booze and sport that it has recently managed to block a proposed EU-wide ban on alcohol sponsorship of sports. The alcohol area, its marketing and advertising agencies knowingly go as close as they can to the boundaries of the relevant codes of practice and laws. Without coercion from government and health organizations, the liquor industry does not seem to sell alcohol in an ethical fashion. The ethical approach would involve a moderate drinking of not more than two units per day or perhaps twenty-one a week for men.
Jackson et al. (2000) propose five ways through which alcohol regulation could be made more efficient. The first strategy involves tackling a full range of marketing activities employed by liquor companies to persuade youngsters to buy their products. This approach involves controlling the whole marketing mix through preventing the offerings of new products that focus on appealing to minors than adults. It as well includes curtailing the pricing policies that encourage the consumption of alcohol by young people. The second strategy involves replacing industry-funded regulations by independent watchdogs empowered by statutory laws. The third tactic entails internationalization of regulations with a focus on public health priorities above mercantile significances. The fourth approach means involving reliable market intelligence in guiding instructions. The alcohol industry thrives as it has market aptitude and intimate knowledge of its customers. There is a need for the public health community to develop the same level of market understanding.
Final Overview, Reflections, and Conclusion
From Jackson et al.s (2000) discussion, youth alcoholism is fuelled by aggressive and sometimes unethical marketing from liquor manufacturers being modified to target young people. These strategies are designed in such a way to take advantage of the dynamics of the changing youth culture and present alcohol as a need for youngsters. Moreover, these methods have been strengthened by the weak government regulations and ad hoc industry self-regulations. The observations by Jackson et al. (2000) are echoed by Smith and Foxcroft (2009, p. 51) who note a relationship between awareness of alcohol marketing and drinking uptake or increased alcohol intake frequency. Smith and Foxcroft (2009); and Gordon, MacKintosh and Moodie (2010) further question whether the current regulatory environment affords the youth any sufficient protection from the aggressive and unethical alcoholic marketing. Few countries have established effective policies to restrict alcohol promotion. Moreover, there is also a lack of international response to underage alcohol marketing crossing national boundaries. The protection of such promoting has also been a key focus for vested interest groups. It has impacted the response by governments at both national and international levels.
In conclusion, there is a comprehensible relationship between the amounts of exposure to alcohol marketing through advertising or promotional activities and those quantities of alcohol consumed by youngsters. It may be that alcohol marketing does not target young people, but, intentionally or unintentionally, they are exposed to alcohol advertising. This exposure is on television, print media, radio, and Internet. Besides, the marketing strategies used in present are not adequately regulated. As such, the ethical aspect has been thrown outside the window as liquor manufactures seek to tap into the emerging youth market. More and more, alcohol products are being designed to suit young people. Marketing strategies are also geared towards creating, promoting, and sustaining the youth drinking culture.