The Diageo (DEO) drinks company has a real dilemma facing its Smirnoff Ice brand, which the company is resolutely doing nothing about. It comes in the form of a binge-drinking game called "Bros Icing Bros." (You can tell by the title who this appeals to.) Any man ambushed with a challenge to drink an entire bottle of Smirnoff Ice must go down on one knee and chug the sugary, unpopular liquor. He may block the challenge if he is already carrying a defensive bottle of Ice. In that case, the challenger must drink both his own bottle and the defender's bottle.
Needless to say, this is all about America's youth finding a new way to drink too much. The problem for Diageo and Smirnoff is fivefold:
- It appears to be increasing sales of the drink, which is good for the brand.
- The game is based on the premise that most people find Smirnoff Ice disgusting, which is bad for the brand.
- It's a party game, and Smirnoff Ice's entire brand equity is tied to parties, which is good for the brand.
- The game is premised on binge drinking, which is bad for the brand.
- Did I mention the part about increasing sales?
Icing is consumer-generated, and some people think it is fun ... We never want under-age 'icing' and we always want responsible drinking."Some people think it is fun"? That's an endorsement, not a criticism. The company couldn't even bring itself to say they're against it. The Smirnoff Ice Facebook site also appears to be tacitly endorsing the game with a set of coded messages, including:
This summer Smirnoff Ice could crash your party.Is it just me, or do these taglines all imply some sort of threat, joke or surprise ... just like a certain well-known drinking game?
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Look, I'm not a party-pooper. I was at a barbecue recently where an icing took place and I confess it was vaguely amusing. And you can't stop young people being stupid -- that's what youth is for.
But no responsible company should take advantage if they know that consumers are abusing their product in a way that is harmful to health. I've complained about the way the booze industry ignores its own rules about discouraging alcohol abuse before. This is another example: Time to step up, Diageo.