At the Marketing Research Association’s annual conference on June 4-6 in San Diego, I had the pleasure of attending a presentation by Julian Cohen, Beam Global Spirits and Wine’s self-proclaimed “answerer of questions.” The presentation, titled, “An Insights Director, a Brand Manager and a Lawyer Walk into a Bar,” took us through a vast study that Beam conducted to segment the various needs, actions and occasions surrounding alcohol consumption. Why do they drink? What are they drinking? Where do they drink? When? With whom? What purpose does alcohol serve in the lives of consumers?
Cohen took us through seven different need segments that ranged from wanting to “amp it up” to needing to “decelerate” at the end of a stressful day. Cohen’s presentation featured 17 clips from popular television shows and films (Dumb and Dumber, Animal House, Wedding Crashers, Cheers, to name just a few) to demonstrate the different attitudes and needs of those who drink. Whether you drink to gain confidence around a new group of people, to treat yourself when celebrating or to attract someone of the opposite sex, the video clips captured just about every scenario imaginable. The audience roared with laughter and recognition as we saw our own drinking behaviors reflected back with humor in Cohen’s comprehensive list.
The only piece missing?
The Leaving Las Vegas and Barfly types of drinkers who “drink to destroy themselves,” says Cohen. This part of the pie chart was purposely left void (literally blank!) because, while Beam understands that disordered drinking is responsible for a large volume of sales for its less-expensive beverages, Beam doesn’t market to it and doesn’t address it.
I can respect Beam’s ethical handling of the matter and as someone who used to work at an addiction recovery firm, I was especially aware of how alcoholism might fit into these segments. I was reminded of a November 2011 post from Quirk’s Directories Manager Alice Davies about how researchers can get creative to use their work for the greater good and wondered if this might be an opportunity.
Beam has clearly achieved deep understanding of drinking behaviors through its research and it made me think that nonprofits in drug, alcohol and chemical dependency might be able to use Beam’s insights to address addiction and what drives people to drink. Are people who drink to escape their everyday lives more likely to fall into the blank piece of the pie chart? Or is it the people who go out to have fun but simply don’t know when to stop?
Sharing the data with players in noncompeting industries or at nonprofits could even elevate the public’s perception of Beam’s commitment to its ethics. Then again, perhaps data coming from an alcohol distributor would be perceived as inherently biased to those who work in addiction recovery.
What do you think? Could the research be useful? Could it raise the status of Beam and other similarly-situated firms in the minds of consumers if they gave back and contributed to the greater good with their research? Can you think of any nonprofits or non-competing organizations that could benefit from your work without stealing your thunder?