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What is Alcohol Marketing? The Four Ps

The term Marketing is defined as “the action or business of promoting and selling products or services”.

Marketing is a broad term that covers a wide range of activities and disciplines including, but by no means limited to, advertising in traditional media outlets such as print, television and radio, promotional activities in online and social media, and sponsorship of sporting and music events. A common term used to define the key aspects of marketing is the “marketing mix”, which is made up of the “four Ps” – namely, Product, Price, Place and Promotion.

Alcohol marketing utilises all four Ps of the “marketing mix”. Alcohol marketers are able to exploit large-scale opportunities arising from the design of the product itself – for instance sweetened beverages or ‘alcopops’; use price promotions as a means to drive sales; apply tactics at the place of sale, for example attractive supermarket promotions and employ a wide range of sophisticated promotion tactics across new media and through sponsorship of sporting and cultural events. Examples of the four Ps are discussed in further detail below.



Research has shown that the design of certain alcoholic drinks appeal more to adolescents than they do to an adult audience. The packaging used for ‘alcopops’, designer drinks or Ready to Drink (RTD) beverages were shown to have higher palatability amongst adolescents than adults in an Australian study, which also showed that alcopop packaging had a higher palatability amongst females.[1] In a more recent Australian study, one third of adolescents reported they would be more likely to purchase an alcohol product with energy ingredients, and almost half would be more likely to purchase a product that looked like a soft drink.[2]

A study carried out for the UK regulatory authorities in 2004 suggests that alcopops make alcohol taste reliably pleasant and, therefore, make it more accessible to adolescents. While there have long been drinks that include mixers which effectively mask the taste of alcohol – rum and coke, gin and tonic, etc. – alcopops give such mixes a more unitary identity and link them with brand images which are appealing to adolescents in their own right. For example, Bacardi is perceived as signalling sophistication. The report also suggests that the brand values of alcopops are strikingly attuned to adolescence: they celebrate mocking the older generation and getting away with things, and that the packaging is designed to appeal to teenagers and young people by using animals and animation.[3]



Price discounts and promotions can be a key marketing tool for alcohol producers and retailers. It is well established that consumers purchase greater quantities of goods when they are subject to price discounts on volume based offers. A study conducted by Alcohol Focus Scotland found that supermarket promotions and discounts on alcohol increased sales by 20 – 25%.[4]

There is evidence to suggest that when people purchase greater quantities of alcohol through volume-based price promotions, they increase their consumption levels.[5] The UK Government recently launched a public consultation on the introduction of a minimum price per unit (MUP) of alcohol sold and a ban on multi-buy discount promotions (For more information on pricing policies, please go to the Price section of the Alcohol Knowledge Centre). Research from the University of Sheffield research indicates that a ban on multi-buy promotions would increase the efficacy of MUP: Modelling shows that MUP combined with a ban on off licensed trade discount bans in Scotland would show greater reductions in levels of alcohol consumption, alcohol related hospital admissions and alcohol related deaths.[6]



The place where alcohol is sold can have an impact on the number and volume of alcohol purchases. We know that more and more outlets selling alcohol for longer periods of time throughout the day has increased the availability and accessibility to alcohol, which has had an impact on consumption levels. It is also likely that the placement and positioning of alcohol products within stores, such as front of store and end of aisle promotions in supermarkets and shops encourages people to buy more drink than they intended to.



The promotion of alcoholic beverages covers a wide range of activities, including advertising and sponsorship. In the UK, alcohol drinks companies were the second largest source of sponsorship funding from 2003 to 2006, behind the financial services sector.[7] Increasingly, alcohol is being promoted more and more in new media and online social networking sites. For example, in 2011, drinks giant Diageo signed a multimillion-pound deal with Facebook to advertise on the social networking site.[8]


Case study: WKD

The table below outlines how integrated marketing tactics can be used to promote alcoholic beverages.

Source: Hastings, Gerard, Anderson, Susan, Angus Kathryn, ' The devil doesn’t just have all the best tunes – he has the best symphony ', Institute of Social Marketing, Stirling and the Open University


[1]    Gates, P., et al (January 2007)., ‘ The influence of product packaging on young people's palatability rating for RTDs and other alcoholic beverages ’, Alcohol and alcoholism, 42: 2, pp. 138–142

[2]    Metzner C., and Kraus L (October 2007)., ‘ The impact of alcopops on adolescent drinking: A literature review ’, Alcohol and Alcoholism, 43: 2, pp. 230–239

[3]    Cragg Ross Dawson: Arnold Cragg (July 2004), ‘Alcohol Advertising and Young People: RESEARCH REPORT’, for Independent Television Commission [ITC], Ofcom, the British Board of Film Classification [BBFC], and the Advertising Standards Authority

[4]    Institute of Alcohol Studies [IAS] (2006), 'Supermarket promotions and discounts on alcohol increase sales by 25%', Alcohol Alert, Issue 1

[5]    University of Sheffield (2008), ' Modelling alcohol pricing and promotion effects on consumption and harm ', Independent Review of the Effects of Alcohol Pricing and Promotion, Part B

[6]    Meng, Y., et al (January 2012)., 'Model-based appraisal of alcohol minimum pricing and off-licensed trade discount bans in Scotland using the Sheffield Alcohol Policy Model (v.2):  Second update based on newly available data', ScHARR, University of Sheffield, Sheffield Alcohol Research Group

[7] , ‘Alcohol First Report of Session 2009–10, Volume I’, House of Commons Health Committee

[8]    Bradshaw, Tim (September 2011), ‘ Facebook strikes Diageo advertising deal ’, Financial Times