“The Instagrammability of Pink Drinks” How Alcohol is Marketed to Women in Australia
Across the globe, men have historically drunk more alcohol and experienced higher levels of alcohol-related harm than women. The gender difference in alcohol consumption makes women an important strategic target market for the alcohol industry. The development of products designed and promoted specifically for the female market, as well as reorienting the marketing of traditionally male products, allows alcohol companies to attract new consumers and increase their profits. The industry’s efforts in targeting women have been effective, with the gap between men and women’s alcohol use and levels of alcohol-related harm reducing both globally and in Australia. While Australian females were 1.7 times as likely as males to have never consumed a full glass of alcohol in 2004, this had reduced to 1.2 times by 2016. Alcohol poses specific harm for women such as through breast cancer and also in alcohol use during pregnancy which can cause preventable birth defects.
The alcohol industry has been explicit in identifying women, including women of child-bearing age, as a target market. Previous research has found marketing strategies specifically targeted at women include the development of new products such as fruit-flavoured beers and RTD products, as well as the use of stereotypical lifestyle messages that focus on fashion, slimness,motherhood, and female friendships.
Method and results
Industry trade publication National Liquor News and its online news site The Shout were searched for references to ‘female’, ‘woman’, ‘women’, ‘lady’, ‘ladies’, ‘pregnant’, ‘pink’, and ‘rosé’. Quotes including these key words published between October 2018 and September 2019 were recorded.
All quotes were reviewed and three main themes were identified:
- “The pink trend is in full swing”: the development and promotion of pink alcohol products;
- “As much an accessory as a drink”: marketing that links alcohol products to fashion, make-up,or other stereotypical female interests and/or activities, or promotes products as a lifestyle choice;
- “Better for you alcohol choice”: marketing that promotes alcohol products as being lower in calories or ‘better for you’.
A list of alcohol brands owned by the companies attributed to the quotes was created. The official Facebook and Instagram pages for these brands were then searched for examples of ads that appeared to be aimed at women. These social media platforms were used to identify examples due to their accessibility.
In addition, the Alcohol Advertising Review Board complaints database was searched for references to ‘female’, ‘woman’, ‘women’, ‘lady’, ‘ladies’, ‘pregnant’, ‘pink’, and ‘rosé’ to identify other brands or products marketed to women. The official Facebook and Instagram sites for the identified brands were searched for examples of ads that appeared to be aimed at women.
It is evident that the alcohol industry in Australia is designing and promoting alcohol products specifically for women. Evidence-based policies that work to change attitudes to alcohol consumption include strong restrictions on the content, placement, and volume of alcohol marketing. With many pregnancies being unplanned, and the significant body of evidence indicating that alcohol promotion influences attitudes, decisions, and behaviours related to alcohol use, there is a strong rationale to address alcohol marketing targeted at women as part of a comprehensive approach to reducing alcohol consumption, including among women of child-bearing age.