Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Breakfast of Champions

Who among us—and when I say "us", I of course mean experts in the field of boozing—haven't partaken of a morning beer before? There have been the random Saturday or Sunday mornings when I've awoken parched and hungover from the previous night's shenanigans and instinctively cracked open the nearest beverage, which just happened to be a beer. Much more frequently there have been "Kegs & Eggs" days, when the action was much more deliberate. Days like St. Patty's Day and the Pirates' Home Opener are annual traditions steeped in this ritual, wherein a cold can of beer is in my hand at the same time a hot cup of coffee is in that of my eventual arresting officer. And of course there are beach trips, when mornings are spent sitting on the deck with a beer while recounting how you got sand in places that soap has rarely seen.

Moa, a brewery in New Zealand, it seems, recognizes this niche in the market and intends to seize it.

From the New Zealand Herald:
The cherry-flavoured, wheat lager by Marlborough brewery Moa is described as "a beer the ladies can enjoy too ... if you're having a champagne breakfast but don't fancy champagne, have a beer instead".
Sounds like an idea whose time has come. But like with anything in the world these days, this idea has ruffled the the angelfeathers of the holier-than-thou crowd. Time Magazine blogger Megan Gibson even went so far as to joke:
Moa co-owner Geoff Ross said that his company isn't recommending problem behavior, rather pointing out that if it's part of the culture, alcohol can be consumed safely at all times of the day.

There's no word if he said this between beer bong hits, but obviously that's what we're assuming.
Really? Not only is that comment lacking in humor, the use of it is lacking in logic. Where is it etched in stone that any person consuming beer in the morning—or at any time of day, for that matter—will never be able to stop at one bottle/can? These aren't potato chips; most people can have just one. Even though Gibson cites the Herald article, she only seems to have read the first half of it. Had she continued on, she would have found a few of the comments offered by citizens whom the Herald polled, including this one from a 33 year old communications advisor:
"I'm Irish, and in Europe it's acceptable to have a beer at 11am. Some breakfast beers are taste enhancers ... it doesn't mean I'm going to have 10 drinks."
Common sense is always a refreshing chaser. Gibson could have exercised a balanced approach to this topic, but turned a blind eye to such journalistic ideals. Instead, she chose only to use her blog post as a cheerleading routine for New Zealand's National Addiction Centre, whose director Doug Sellman called Moa's marketing plan "breathtakingly bold":
[Sellman] said people might be inclined to drink a "breakfast beer" because they were risk-takers.

"It's a completely irresponsible stunt from a health and addiction perspective, because it is normalising pathological behaviour."
The hypocrisy of this soundbite is cringe-worthy. It's "irresponsible" of Moa to suggest their product to people whose culture entails drinking an alcoholic beverage in the morning, but it's not irresponsible to say that the customs of cultures foreign to your own are "pathological behaviour"? What Mr. Sellman (and his hype-woman, Ms. Gibson) would appear to be saying, then, is that any and every person who has ever put an alcoholic beverage to his or her lips prior to noon is a socially-deviant alcoholic in need of counseling.

Wouldn't you just love to be stuck in a corner with these two at a party?

Not only is that line of thinking reckless for the average person, it seems particularly disingenuous when coming from someone who is purported to be an expert in addiction. True authorities on alcoholism will tell you that the disease grows from psychological factors much more complex than, "I'm going to drink a beer in the morning to be edgy." Is there risk that people with alcohol dependencies will fuel their problems with a beer marketed for mornings? Certainly. But what Sellman and Gibson are missing is something that should be quite obvious: People with this type of serious problem already drink "breakfast beers", whether the products are marketed as such or not. Alcoholics don't drink in the morning because a brewer says its product can be consumed at that time of day, they do it because they're alcoholics.

Furthermore, there is an inherent risk in the marketing of any product that someone with an irrational mindset can misuse. And yet, I haven't seen outcry over TV commercials for Power Ball or the various state lotteries and the potential harm they could do to people with gambling addictions. How many sex addiction experts are protesting the annual Victoria's Secret Fashion Show? To deride a company's marketing as negligent simply because a small subgroup of the population have an inability to control their use of the product is preposterous. And where is the consistency of Sellman's "message"? Shouldn't he be shouting down all marketing campaigns built around alcoholic products? He won't, though, because then far fewer people would listen to him. Maybe not even Megan Gibson.

Mr. Ross, if Moa wants to bring their product to America, let me know. I'd be happy to toast to your company's success before showering away the sand some morning on my next summertime beach trip.

1 comment:

Blogger said...

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