PONG !!

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No, not that Pong.  This Pong:

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Beer Pong.  You know, that game involving ping pong balls and Solo cups and lotsa heavy drinking.

And we can find beer pong ‘kits’ and other drinking paraphernalia at local grocery stores and big box (department) stores that sell beer as an extension of their grocery department.  Funnels or beer ‘bongs’.  Drinking games. Other fun stuff.  All to encourage mass consumption and intoxication.

People love it so much, they’ve built interactive, electronic beer pong tables, as covered by the CBC.

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems a tad irresponsible to be marketing Beer Pong and the tools of crazy drunkenness in the same place they sell toys, cheese and baby clothes.  We have children, many of whom that cannot discern between colorful things meant for amusement or more nefarious activities, that are going to get the wrong impression.

Political Guide to Getting DeBunked

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We’re all for debunking myths here at Thirst. And maybe there’s a perception about alcohol that it’s universally available here in Canada, or certainly that it’s more broadly available than ever before.  Maybe.  Maybe not.

And certainly, we may not all know how much variance there is in pricing from province to province.  Maybe you think it’s all the same.  It isn’t.

From a fairly light exploration of Canada’s drinking laws on Narcity.com, see above a map illustrating variations in the selling points of alcohol, across the territories and provinces.   You can see that booze isn’t even available in Nunavut, and if you wanted a beer, you’d have to order it by mail… and that Alberta has private liquor stores.  A big difference in approach from Ontario!

What’s more, you can see on an interactive map from the.Loop that in addition to different places, there are also very different prices.  In fact, beer is so much cheaper in Quebec that some persons have taken to making ‘runs’ to buy big quantities and bringing it back to their home province.   This from a more serious discussion on CBC news,  illuminating details on recent discussions about inter-provincial laws as they relate to alcohol.

Make no mistake – booze is big business, and these variations represent the market forces of large industries and other interests. Any thoughts to the contrary are a myth, indeed.

Perhaps if we as a society viewed alcohol as something potentially very harmful that needed to be managed instead of a commodity that needed to be sold, the rules would be different.  On that note, see the chart below, illustrating the harms (disease/dependence/injuries/violence) of alcohol as compared to other drugs…an eye opener!

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Risky Business!

It’s been a while since we’ve showed the Low Risk Drinking Guidelines and one of those cool, slightly accelerated Sharpie videos.  This one talks about how to conceptualize drinks.  How to count, really.

We can limit the damage from alcohol upon our lives, our health and our culture, if we simply become more conscious of our consumption.

We’ve been convinced by big media that drinking is sexy, fun, cool…and we see these images in movies, television commercials and in print media. But when we look at alcohol more objectively, we discover that intoxication and drunkenness are very far from those things.    Think about how big drinkers handle themselves in social situations, or within periods of stress.

Tragically, when we look at big consumers of alcohol we may discover aggression, slovenliness, habitual escapism, emotional instability.   We discover chronic illness, ravaged immune systems and worn-out livers and kidneys.  Sadly, we commonly discover pain.

More hopefully, if we learn to manage our consumption, and not pair it with our vulnerabilities, we can help ourselves.  We can create habits grounded in reality, instead of images fabricated to sell booze.  We can enjoy it, truly, and find that reasonable limits actually help to polish the good times.

Political Spheres, Bubbles in the Beers

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If you felt like a more scientific read than what we commonly offer here at Thirst,  you could bump into Healthy Debate.ca.  This is a site devoted to evidence as it relates to many health issues, both in Ontario and national issues.  Furthermore it provides for everyday Canadians to add their thoughts and experiences to each ‘debate’.

When it comes to alcohol, there is a wealth of knowledge to read and explore in regards to the harms and costs, trends and political realities.   Also on Healthy Debate.ca there are many journalistic articles examining the economic and social issues that surround alcohol.

For example, there is the Op-Ed piece from 2012 from Edmund Kwok, speaking dramatically to the impacts of alcohol as seen in emergency rooms.

Or the detailed work of Wendy Glauser and others in a piece exploring the nature of how alcohol is managed (or not managed) inside a variety of health care settings, including primary health.

It’s an opportunity to read thoughts from some very keen minds, and lend your own perspective to some ongoing analysis of our health care system’s strength’s and weaknesses…plus the economics and politics that drive how alcohol is marketed, sold and distributed in Canada and Ontario.

Hitting the Booze Delivery Button

n-THIRSTIE-APP-largeIn having an eye for interesting alcohol-related topics, we discovered a marketing company called Thirstie [Twitter] via an article by CTV News and then another in Huff Post.

It was of high interest to us, at first glance anyway, because our alcohol webpages for the public are collectively known as Thirst.

Heck, in today’s corporate and consumer world, you might say our alcohol awareness campaign is semi-‘branded’ as Thirst…though we aren’t selling anything except insight and dialogue…but still this struck close to our hacienda.

So we investigated!

Turns out Thirstie [web] isn’t a blog, or the semi-disguised, semi- articulate arm of a Public Health Agency.   Instead they are the arm of an App/Software company from the USA.  Thirstie is essentially an App to facilitate the on-demand delivery of alcohol.

Back in the day, you had to phone for a bootleg.  If you knew who to call, a shady character would arrive with booze and looking for cash – old school.  When the Beer Store was closed on Sundays, this was a real black market business.

Now, you can phone for a legal delivery.  In Barrie for example, you can ring up Dial-a-Bottle or Call a Beer and someone will go on a hooch run on your behalf, for a fee.  They’ll bring it to your doorstep.

Now, in the same way that Uber has changed the transportation business in Toronto with a high-powered App – perhaps we are about to see the same happen with alcohol delivery. Simply enter the desired bottles into your smart phone, and see them delivered.

In the same vein as other App-driven or online efforts, this requires collaboration in the industry for it to work.  This is because Thirstie doesn’t produce alcohol…it just delivers it.  But in league with partners – it also helps purchase, market, promote, expose, normalize, glorify, and endear alcohol to its customers.  That’s the troublesome part.

When you’re offering alcohol at the touch of a button, you need customers ready to drink, looking for convenience, and readily aware of where that button is, and how it works.

The Invasion from Outer Headspace

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Here’s a heady thought for a Tuesday morning.   I was looking at an article from Britain that examines how counter-culture has been exploited to sell booze.  I then began to wonder about alcohol marketing here in the Americas.

Before I delve too deep into that notion, let’s first acknowledge what Adbusters would have us understand:  branders and marketers are working to continually encroach on our intellectual, public, private, and (shared) cultural space.  They are looking to invade, conquer and settle down into our social-political-consumerist reality.

Psycho-Imperialism, I’ll playfully say…

Looking around, I see marketers forging brand identities so omnipresent that they become part of us.  Think about ‘Kleenex’ and ‘Javex’ – words that are used interchangeably with ‘tissue’ and ‘bleach’.  Or, ponder the ubiquity of ‘Coke’ and its association with everything.  These brands have melded into the cerebral landscape so indelibly that we know these products unconsciously – they have become one with our collective culture.

Alcohol branding is no different.  Instead of selling booze, they are instead selling ideas, experiences, excitement and associations that prey upon our emotions.   Maybe you’ve seen popular, ‘cool’ and funny ideas, such as The Most Interesting Man in the World.  But there are also ‘counter-cool’ ideas.   If you are feeling a little rebellious and anti-establishment, well, the establishment can sell that to you as well.   For example, certain energy drinks are marketed to be associated with danger, risk-taking and vigor.  Combine with vodka.

Certain beers are sold to us as tough, different, edgy, escapist, or raw.

Certain whiskeys are portrayed as daring, character-building, fiery, or we are somehow meant to believe they are consumed as an act of leadership or maturity.

How very, very strange.

 

Photo by Sean MacEntee (Flickr) via Creative Commons. [No changes]

Alcohol, for Fun and Profit

16827367425_7da4053571_kI’ve been doing a little reading.  I’ve been following some election buzz and media coverage, that’s been so much focused on the economy.   I’ve been perusing online articles and following the evolution of the alcohol industry.

It goes on.

It seems obvious to me that everyone is looking to use alcohol to make a buck.  Stimulate economies. Spur the tourism industry.  Lubricate businesses in need of free flowing dollars.  Sell beer and whisky.  Profit.

Everything else seems to be posturing to my eye, and spin to my ear.

Look at a few examples:

I’m not naive – I know that money makes the world go ‘round.   But I cannot determine if our wants and needs are being met – as governments and the private sector work to fulfill our profound desires for a cold one….

…or is it instead that our interests are being dictated or fabricated by industry, profiteers and government lobbyists?  Were we truly, genuinely so unhappy with where we bought beer, historically?  How booze was distributed or marketed or sold?  The hours we might run a downtown street party, or a Jack & Jill?

Since alcohol is such a risk factor for chronic conditions…and such a short-term risk factor in injury and death…I am unsure what to think in terms of anyone’s motivations, save that they all might be short-sighted.

Nobody likes to hear about a guy who fell down a flight of stairs, an abusive relationship, or the death of some young boaters.  Nobody likes to imagine risk factors for cancer.  But money?  We sure seem to enjoy imagining more of that.

 

Photo by Got Credit, Creative Commons.  No changes.