Mental Health + Alcohol: Can marketing inspire a positive change in society's relationship with alcohol?

Mental Health + Alcohol: Can marketing inspire a positive change in society's relationship with alcohol?

For those of you that know YesMore Agency, you’ll know that we’re an alcohol marketing agency. What many people don’t (yet) know is that one of the key reasons we specialised in alcohol marketing was to use our expertise and experience to, ultimately, drive a cultural shift in our society’s relationship with drinking alcohol for the wrong reasons.

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It’s a topic close to our hearts, and it’s our belief that much of the drinks industry and marketing industry could be doing more to understand how poor mental health can lead to people using alcohol as a vice. For example it’s not uncommon for people to make mental links between, say, a bad day at work and unwinding with a drink, or to drink wine and eat chocolate after a breakup, when lonely, stressed, or depressed even.

Co-Founder & New Client Director of YesMore Agency, Tom Harvey, opening up the evening of talks and panel debate during Mental Health Awareness Week.

Co-Founder & New Client Director of YesMore Agency, Tom Harvey, opening up the evening of talks and panel debate during Mental Health Awareness Week. Image by Ed Brown, YesMore Agency.

So for Mental Health Awareness Week 2019, YesMore partnered with Campfire Collaborative Co-Working Spaces (where our London office is based) to host an evening of talks and industry debate about alcohol and mental health:

Could better alcohol marketing inspire a positive change in society’s relationship with alcohol by refocusing our thinking around mental health?

No mean feat. So we pulled together some of the industry’s leading minds to share some of their own expertise, and this is what they had to say:

Speakers: Creators of The World Record Egg on Instagram – Alissa Khan-Wheelan, Chris Godfrey and CJ Brown.

If you haven’t heard of The World Record Egg, I can only assume you’ve been living in an Instagram-less hole far away from the internet. Why? Because 5 BILLION (yes, really) others knew about it earlier this year.

CJ Brown and Alissa Khan-Wheelan, two of the three people behind The World Record Egg on Instagram

CJ Brown (left) and Alissa Khan-Wheelan (right), two of the three people behind The World Record Egg on Instagram, presenting at YesMore Agency, London. Image by Andy Commons, Photographer.

“We got 1 million likes in the first 10 days”

Go check out @World_Record_Egg on Instagram, it’s currently the Internet’s most viral thing in its history and currently holds the record for the most liked image on Instagram (53 million likes) after 3 social-savvy Londoners got together to try to beat the previous record (18 million likes) held by Kylie Jenner.

“It increased traffic to mental health charities by 142,000% and they’re still getting donations from it each day which is really incredible”

Not only did they smash the record, but they used their newfound global influence as a force for good: improving mental health.

Chris Godfrey, co-creator of the @World_Record_Egg on Instagram, presenting how they grew it to be the most viral thing in the history of the internet.

Chris Godfrey, co-creator of the @World_Record_Egg on Instagram, presenting how they grew it to be the most viral thing in the history of the internet. Image by Andy Commons, Photographer.

Speaker: Paul Stollery, Co-Founder of Hype Collective and co-creator (with YesMore Agency) of The Alcohol Issue.

Next up was Paul Stollery of Hype Collective, a student marketing agency that YesMore Agency has partnered with to conduct original research into student attitudes and behaviours towards alcohol.

Paul Stollery of Hype Collective, student marketing agency, presenting key findings from a YesMore Agency partnership study into youth attitudes towards alcohol and mental health.

Paul Stollery of Hype Collective, student marketing agency, presenting key findings from a YesMore Agency partnership study into youth attitudes towards alcohol and mental health. Image by Andy Commons, Photographer.

He gave a sneak peek into the results we’ve found so far, including insight into students’ perception and consciousness of mental health – particularly if and when it influences their decision to drink alcohol or not.

“1/3rd of students interviewed said they’d made decisions to drink less because of how it affected their mental health”

Paul pulled out sections and stats from our report findings, including fascinating insight around the age-old stigma of having to hold a drink in your hand on a night out with friends. In short: students don’t have the same stigma that many of us have grown up with.

We’re planning to release the report in a few weeks time, so unfortunately if you weren’t in the room you’ll have to wait until we release the report. Send me an email here if you want to be amongst the first to see it.

Speaker: Emma Hancock, creator of Fruit Loops podcast and Account Manager at YesMore Agency.

Our very own Emma Hancock took to the stage to introduce her own podcast, Fruit Loops, due to launch in the coming weeks.

Emma Hancock, Account Manager at YesMore Agency and creator of the Fruit Loops Podcast - presenting why she's starting this movement.

Emma Hancock, Account Manager at YesMore Agency and creator of the Fruit Loops Podcast – presenting why she’s starting this movement. Image by Andy Commons, Photographer.

She shared how we as a society often refer to mental health as an illness, but in actual fact it’s like any other form of physical health – and so it fluctuates for everyone. We can be mentally healthy one week, but then not another.

Emma pointed out that podcasts about mental health often talk to famous people, but she’d found that people want to hear from everyday people about everyday things, starting from the bottom to encourage everyone to open up their own conversation with a positive angle.

You can follow @Fruit_Loops_Podcast on Instagram to be amongst the first to know when they go live, and get in touch with Emma here if you have a story to share about your own mental health.

Speaker: Amy Powell of PromoVeritas, a promotional marketing compliance consultancy.

Our last presentation came from Amy Powell, Client Relationship Manager at PromoVeritas. She shared more about the rules of alcohol marketing, bringing a level of expertise and understanding that was vital for the room of drinks brands, bars and drinks marketing agencies.

Amy Powell of PromoVeritas presenting insights into the mental health elements of the Portman Code, ASA Guidelines and CAP Code.

Amy Powell of PromoVeritas presenting insights into the mental health elements of the Portman Code, ASA Guidelines and CAP Code. Image by Andy Commons, Photographer.

We know all too well the regulation and legalities of alcohol marketing is a minefield, so Amy simplified it all into easy to understand bite-sized chunks of what you can and can’t do. She covered the differences between the ASA, CAP Code, Portman Code, CMA Regulations and more.

“Only 66% aged 18-34 believe paid-for influencer content is no different to paid-for advertising”

Amy raised thought-provoking questions about influencer marketing when it came to the promotion of alcohol – citing examples from the likes of pop star, Rita Ora, who promotes her co-owned Próspero Tequila brand to her 14.8m-strong Instagram audience – without mentioning fans need to be over 18/21 years old to follow/purchase. Amy noted, too, that it’s very, very likely she has a loyal fan base of teen and minors following her every move.

Rita Ora promoting her co-owned Tequila on her Instagram profile, likely with a large proportion under-age fans following her.

Rita Ora promoting her co-owned Próspero Tequila on her Instagram profile, likely with a large proportion under-age fans following her.

“51% of 18-34 year olds say their purchasing is influenced by an influencer”

Many other examples were shared, and it was pointed out that most influencers are simply unaware of the regulations and their responsibility as those with influence. Put simply, most don’t know they’re breaking the law with some of their posts.

Amy’s presentation continued and really landed on the point that we, as marketers and drinks industry professionals, have a duty of care when it comes to alcohol marketing. And also, we should get to know the regulations clearly so we don’t break them – because if we do then the notion of self-regulation, codes and rules could easily be upgraded to more stringent and non-negotiable law.

PromoVeritas are hosting a free breakfast briefing on Alcohol Marketing; the rules and regulations from 8.30am – 10am on 19th June 2019. More details and sign up info here.

Panelists sharing their views on whether alcohol marketing can improve society's relationship between mental health and alcohol, at YesMore Agency London.

Panelists sharing their views on whether alcohol marketing can improve society’s relationship between mental health and alcohol, at YesMore Agency London. From left; Amy Powell of PromoVeritas, Luke Boase of Lucky Saint beer, Paul Stollery of Hype Collective, Alissa Khan-Wheelan of @World_Record_Egg, Alex Carlton of STRYYK zero proof spirit, Shane McCarthy of Ireland Craft Beverages, and Tom Harvey of YesMore Agency. Image by Andy Commons, Photographer.

After a short loo and top-up break, we dived into what can only be described as an EYE OPENING panel debate to explore whether alcohol marketing could have an influence on our society’s relationship with drinking alcohol. Panelists included:

“The egg has challenged brands to talk about mental health, because they want to be associated with us and they can only do so if they align with our mission to improve mental health.”
Alissa Khan-Wheelan, co-creator of @World_Record_Egg

“We’ve found evidence to show that students are no longer peer pressured to drink alcohol on a night out (except for those in sporting teams)”
Paul Stollery, Co-Founder of Hype Collective

“We’re a zero proof spirit, but we’ll never target under 18s as we don’t want to encourage kids to move onto drinking alcohol”
Alex Carlton, CEO & Founder of STRYYK zero proof spirit & Funkin Cocktails

“It’s about making alcohol free drinks aspirational in themselves, rather than simply being the non-alcohol version of another brand”
Luke Boase, CEO & Founder of Lucky Saint 0.5% beer

“If we keep opening up the conversation about mental health it will have an effect on the industry”
Shane McCarthy, CEO & Founder of Ireland Craft Beverages & a new mental health charity launching soon

“There is a place for humour and hijacking when it comes to alcohol marketing, but  towing the line is challenging. It’s worth sense checking, because sometimes running away with an idea can get you in trouble.”
Amy Powell, Client Relationship Manager at PromoVeritas – Promotional Marketing Compliance Consultancy

Overall the night was clearly the very beginning of a topic that sparked both massive interest and much debate. We ran slightly over, with everyone in the room captivated in the conversation – each wanting to ask more. So it’s clear there’s much more to do in both the marketing and the drinks industry to pay closer attention to mental health when it comes to the marketing of alcohol. We’re seeing the likes of Diageo with their Guinness Clear ads, and Heineken with their I need a hero ads, taking steps towards removing the stigma of not drinking – but is there more we can do on a grass roots level? We all agreed that further education, awareness and general consciousness of metal health amongst the industry is valuable, and that we as brands and marketers should challenge the societal norms set before us.

Finally, a massive thank you to our partners for the evening:

Hope you enjoyed the article. For more good reads, interviews and news from the wonderful world of alcohol, you can sign up to our monthly ‘Top 5 Alcohol Marketing Stories‘ newsletter or follow YesMore Agency on Linkedin.

If you’d like to hire our excellent team contact hello@Yesmore.co.uk (for both US & UK work) or if working with us sounds fun (it is) emailJobs@Yesmore.co.uk

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About The Author

Tom Harvey - YesMore Agency

Tom has carved out a career in marketing agencies across disciplines from start-ups and scale-ups to big international businesses.

He’s overseen teams delivering both global and local client work and has spent the latter half of his career coaching 25+ different agencies on how to deliver better results for their clients, and coaching brands on how to get more from their agencies.

Tom’s a sucker for French red wine, so much so that he recently got married in a vineyard near Bordeaux!

If you'd like to get in touch with Tom just email tom@yesmore.co.uk, call his mobile on 07944304761 or connect with Tom Harvey on Linkedin

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