Do booze, tobacco and Twitter mix???

In recent days I’ve had reason to do some research into the social marketing efforts of some tobacco brands.  Then today I ran across this article in Ad Age about how Michelob is entering the Twittersphere

So it got me thinking how deep should brands which historically have seen their marketing activities limited by the government because of health issues be allowed to trend in this brave new social world.

Many of the issues relate to the products and how they are marketed to minors.  If you do some fast Facebook searches as I did and typed in some well-known Vodka brands, some might be surprised to see just how many fan pages there are, and how wide the loyal following there is (ex. Grey Goose).  While the brands might be able to deliver stats that show a small percentage of the audience are under age, it is hard for them to know for sure.

On the other hand, if they are now allowed to extol their virtues on TV, long seen as the final marketing battle ground why shouldn’t they be able to tweet?  The question about beer that is raise by the article is a bit questionable since beer marketing is as common as well….beer.

If social media is about open and honest conversations and about transparency, shouldn’t all points of view be allowed and people be able to make their own decisions.  Even though you likely can’t find a corporate-sponsored tobacco page or Twitter persona, just search for your favorite brand.  There are likely fan-created groups and fan pages and tons of people talking about the brand on Twitter.  It is naive to think that it is not out there just because the companies themselves are not allowed to market.

Should we stop them from social marketing in order to protect the kids, or allow them into the world of social marketing to spur an open and honest conversation about the products?

Would love to hear your thoughts.

Jon Newman

In 2002 Jon cofounded The Hodges Partnership and has helped to grow it into one of the country’s largest public relations firms (based on O’Dwyer’s annual rankings). Jon has taught communications as an adjunct professor at VCU, speaks regularly at conferences and meetings and blogs and tweets about public relations and marketing issues.

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