Marketing alcohol is big business.

Marketing alcohol is big business. Approximately $400,000 is spent each day promoting alcohol in New Zealand, that’s 150 million dollars per year (NZ Drug Foundation). Read the NZ Drug Foundation’s argument about how alcohol advertising normalises drinking and sustains our drinking culture.

Alcohol company advertising on Facebook and Twitter is usually not viewed as advertising. Brands explicitly craft their posts to mimic your friends’ posts. This is because marketing is far more persuasive and influential when you don’t know it’s marketing.

Alcohol marketers know that you love sharing funny content on social media. They use this to craft stuff they know you’ll really want to share with your friends. This is what’s called ‘free labour’ – essentially people doing work for companies to make them profits for free, and sometimes without even realising it.

Man hiding face

Advertising in disguise

Marketing is most effective when you don’t know it’s marketing.

Messages that go viral are an alcohol company’s dream because they provide detailed information about social groups and people’s tastes, values and preferences. Alcohol marketers are then able to use this info to create their own posts (and other content) that fits within the group culture, making it difficult for users to tell that it’s coming from the company.

When users promote brands by incorporating them into their own personal narratives about their lives, they carry out lucrative brand-building labour for corporations  (Carah and Shaul, 2015). In a recent article, Carah and Shaul argue that young people become an integral part of a complex digital marketing machine, so that “Instagram works as an image machine” that links images of our bodies, identities and everyday lives with brands and cultural value in ways that affect each other (2015 p.5)


Carah, N., & Shaul, M. (2016). Brands and Instagram: Point, tap, swipe, glance. Mobile Media & Communication, 4(1), 69-84.

New Zealand Drug Foundation. (2010). Let's get it right. Factsheet 3: Alcohol advertising. Advertising and the Alcohol Reform Bill.