Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Who says beer packaging is meaningless?

At first I thought this was another goofy college kid beer experiment: "The color of safety: Ingroup-associated colors make beer safer." American brewers have been making 'fan-cans', which are beercan colour schemes based on university sport team colours. This has really ticked off some people, forcing Anheuser-Busch to stop marketing them in certain markets.

Would you drink more because your beer can has your team's colours? This would never work, right? Think again. According to recent research from the University of Missouri, Department of Psychological Sciences, beer packaging can influence drinking habits. College kids were shown images of fan-cans or regular beer cans then asked questions about the safety of beer consumption. This part is scary: after viewing the fan-cans, participants thought beer drinking was less dangerous than when they viewed the plain can. There was a little more to the experiment that this, but I am leaving out the boring details. Other findings were even scarier. They had the students read a public service announcement (PSA) about the hazards of college parties. The authors reported,
"It is both interesting and somewhat disturbing that individuals exposed to the fan can found local parties less dangerous, an effect that may actually prevent them from adopting the harm-reduction drinking practices recommended in the PSA they read."

This does make sense. We normally believe members of a similar social group to be safer. This experiment demonstrated that a product's presentation can influence its perceived safety. A troublesome finding considering the staggering negative effects of underage drinking on university campuses.

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