Judge and Jury: The drinks industry must unite and say ’Nay’ to Moo

An alcoholic milkshake available in sweet flavours is bound to prompt concern about underage drinking, says Stephen Whitehead, director external affairs, International Distillers and Vintners.

An alcoholic milkshake available in sweet flavours is bound to

prompt concern about underage drinking, says Stephen Whitehead, director

external affairs, International Distillers and Vintners.



The launch of an alcoholic milkshake ’Moo’ the day before the general

election caused a predictablc reaction from the alcohol pressure groups

and media. Only a Labour landslide kept these inebriated cows off the

front pages of the tabloids. I use the term ’launch’ loosely as it

looked from the outside as if this product was rumbled by an aggressive

media while on pilot and from that moment the marketers lost control.

From the outset it was obvious that the company was not in control of

the communication.



The media immediately labelled Moo as an alcoholic milkshake when in

fact the company was quite clear in its labelling as an alcoholic dairy

cooler.



There is nothing wrong with a dairy-based alcoholic drink, after all

cream liqueurs have been around for decades. Yet there is something

about Moo which made the media uneasy. Alcohol has to be marketed with

great care particularly to protect children. Responsible alcohol

producers go to great lengths to ensure that their naming, packaging and

promotion and advertising conform to standards of decency and do not

appeal to children.



To take milkshake, add alcohol, put it in a bottle with a cow coloured

label and call it ’Moo’ pushes the boundaries of acceptability just too

far.



The company behind the launch of this product did not seem to consider

market environmental factors prior to launch. Given the current

atmosphere in the alcohol sector due to alcopops, press reaction to this

product was inevitable. Some have suggested that all publicity is good

publicity when selling to the 18 to 25 culture. I would accept that if

Moo was being pushed in the night spots of Soho to stimulale negative

press to tap the counter cultural vein hit by alcopops. But they were

selling it in a few country pubs in Oxfordshire and wider distribution

will be hard to achieve.



I can’t see supermarkets queuing up for it.



From a product PR perspective this seems like a classic case of a

product hitting a negative media vein and immediately losing control of

messages and positioning and letting the critics set the agenda. But I

think the product is basically flawed in its ethical position. If the

company received any PR advice on the product I hope it included an

assessment of the external environment and an issue management strategy.

However, judging by the results it looks like no advice was sought or

offered.



The implications of such a mishandled launch could be much wider than

supermarkets not carrying ’Moo’. The industry has to take a real lead

before such products lead to statutory limitations on the freedom to

market responsible alcoholic brands.



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