Issue 07, Volume 85
July 25, 2012
It must be hard to be a company which sells vice legally, that exists as a monopoly with no opposition and has a legal responsibility to promote the safe use of the product which is being sold.
It’d be like being a drug dealer employed by the government, hoping to retain repeat customers to increase sales, but with an obligation to your customers, “You know, what you are doing could be bad for you … you should watch out … but, don’t forget to come again.”
This is the climate which the Liquor Control Board of Ontario and the Beer Store operate in; a monopoly over alcohol, but with an obligation to promote safe drinking habits.
The LCBO is a direct governmental body, and one of their core values is corporate social responsibility. Indeed, the LCBO proclaims it’s “committed to being a responsible retailer by promoting responsible consumption, fundraising to support Ontario communities, ensuring the products it imports and sells are safe, and lessening its impact on the environment. Social responsibility practices are as important as the LCBO’s mandate to provide a high level of customer service and maximize dividends for the provincial government.”
Having grown up in a culture which actively promotes alcohol consumption, I’ve become quite accustomed to drinking alcohol; namely beer.
I love beer as much as the next guy (probably even more), but even I was surprised by The Beer Store’s latest marketing campaign.
Much to my enjoyment, the Beer Store brought back what the LCBO has been severely lacking over the past three years. Mix Pack Eights allowed for a customer to easily transport pints of beer from the display to the cashier; a truly great innovation which increased ease, and decreased the amount of pints of beer
which I drop on the ground as I slowly step from the back of the store to the front.
What is controversial about the Beer Store bringing back the carry cases (aside from the fact they are not environmentally friendly and Increase waste), is that it is advertised on the main panel, “Will 8 Be Enough?”
As I’ve said, I enjoy beer, a lot, but even I think this is crossing the line. Hell, the line doesn’t even exist at this point. The only interpretation I can make of the tagline is that the Beer Store is overly promoting consumption.
“Will eight be enough to get you plastered? Probably Not! Grab some more.” Now this might not be what their advertising executives came up with, but it’s the only messaging I can walk away with.
Indeed, it is a tricky situation, selling a product, but having a responsibility to limit the consumption of said product. The only reason why the Beer Store would have included such branding, in my opinion, is because they are a private monopoly; they weighed the pros and the cons and decided it was a worthwhile risk.
The LCBO could never get away with such branding. As a governmental body, they have to play by different rules than the Beer Store.
And while the term monopoly has been thrown around here, it should be noted that the LCBO finds competition in the Beer Store, U-Brews, wineries and wine shops and border crossings.
However, at none of these other competitors will you find branding that is designed to actively increase and promote consumption.
I hope that the Beer Store remedies this situation, as indeed, it is in need of a fix.
As a responsible beer drinker, labeling such as this offends me and desperately reeks of a company which has abandoned a pledge to promoting responsible drinking.
Jon Liedtke was the Features and Opinions Editor, Advertising Manager and Deficit Consultant at the UWindsor Lance.