The feminisation of alcohol marketing

This, she says, can create unhealthy habits. “We feel that mums are a very vulnerable group in terms of their mental health. One in three experience mental health issues in early motherhood,” she says. That means some are at risk of sliding down the scale of alcohol use disorder, particularly […]

This, she says, can create unhealthy habits. “We feel that mums are a very vulnerable group in terms of their mental health. One in three experience mental health issues in early motherhood,” she says. That means some are at risk of sliding down the scale of alcohol use disorder, particularly if they are drinking in the way that’s encouraged with ‘Mummy needs wine’ T-shirts or similar products.

Don’t ‘pink’ my drink

Efforts to expand the female market for alcohol have certainly worked. A 2016 study published in the BMJ medical journal found that women are now drinking at nearly the same rates as their male counterparts. But statistics also back up the idea that alcohol abuse among women is on the rise. A 2017 US study found that alcohol use disorder among females skyrocketed 83% between 2002 and 2013, and a UK study from the same year found that alcohol-related deaths among British women reached the highest numbers since 2008. Experts also worry that children are absorbing messages aimed at adults, with potential consequences for later life.

“What we need to remember is that alcohol advertising normalises drinking,” Emslie says. “Young people – our daughters – are consuming the same media and taking in the same alcohol messages as adults.” She points to policy changes the government can take to restrict alcohol advertising, saying it can better regulate the types of messages that can reach young girls in particular. This can curb some of the damage that ‘feminised’ marketing can do both online and in broadcast media, as well as bolstering organisations that promote alcohol-free lifestyles.

Emslie also points to a social media initiative that took off last year called #DontPinkMyDrink, in which she and her colleagues have asked women to tweet examples of products that “are equating women’s drinking with pink, with fun, with friendship, with empowerment”. The aim is to call out the ways companies use patronising tropes to target women: cotton candy-coloured labels, sweet flavours, or Johnnie Walker turning its mascot into a female version, Jane.

One thing is clear: gendered marketing remains a reality across all aspects of daily life. But the experts say that unlocking many of the values that these alcohol adverts and products tap into – happiness, independence, empowerment – requires real change. Not a bottle of overpriced rosé.

“These types of advertisements,” Daskalopoulou says, don’t “actually challenge deep structural inequalities. We have to acknowledge that feeling empowered is not the same thing as actually being empowered.”

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