Research & Insights

Research Shows Link Between Right Messages And Fewer Hangovers

Campaigns that try to scare young people into cutting back on alcohol may not be using the most effective strategy. Rather, new research out of Australia suggests messages that create positive feelings like happiness are much more effective at influencing young adults.

Published in the January 2015 International Journal of Consumer Studies, business marketing scholar Josephine Previte and her colleagues from the University of Queensland write, “Research into the effectiveness of negative appeals to mobilize positive behavior indicates… that fear and threat result in avoidance, self-protection and inaction rather than an active response.” More importantly, the researchers suggest that “risky behavior campaigns are encouraging increases in the problem behavior – binge drinking for example… adversely impacting youth.”

For their study, the researchers recruited 230 diverse young adults who were asked to look at different ads intended to encourage them to drink in moderation. Some ads sought to create a sense of fear or shame, while others touted positive reasons to drinking moderately, both followed by the line, “It’s ok to have a drink. Just don’t overdo it.”

For example, an ad that used scare tactics read:

“There are nicer things to have your arms around at the end of the night. Don’t form a steady relationship with your crapper. There are better ways to end a big night out. It’s ok to have a drink. Just don’t overdo it.” The scare-tactic ad included a close-up of a photo of a toilet in a frame on a dressing table.

A positive ad read:

“If you’re losing half your weekend getting over a hangover, you’re wasting precious time. You can still go and party, just go a bit easier and get full value out of your weekend. Its ok to have a drink. Just dont overdo it.” The positive ad was coupled with a “rear shot of a well-dressed man and woman holding hands standing on a hill with the sun beaming down on them.”

The findings suggest that while both negative and positive emotional messaging were effective, ads that suggested positive reasons to drink moderately had a stronger effect. “Positive emotions more strongly influence the processing of alcohol moderation messages,” write the researchers. “We have demonstrated the importance of future [social marketing] messaging to move beyond negative, avoidance emotions.”

The researchers recommend “developing effective social communication targeted at promoting safe-drinking practices by embedding positive, emotion-evoking appeals which support moderate-drinking practices in young consumers.”

International Journal of Consumer Studies, January 2015

Josephine Previte, UQ Business School, The University of Queensland
Rebekah Russell-Bennett, QUT Business School, Queensland University of Technology
Joy Parkinson, Griffith Business School, Nathan, Queensland, Australia

Posted: April 1, 2015
Tagged as: