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 media immediately labelled Moo as an alcoholic milkshake when in
fact the company was quite clear in its labelling as an alcoholic dairy
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
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
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.