Alcohol continues to be a costly problem for Australian society and has proven to be a complex issue for social change. In particular young men have been identified as a segment which is vulnerable to the over-consumption of alcohol (Nolen-Hoeksema & Hilt, 2006). University students are a lucrative market for alcohol companies and research indicates that this group has a high level of overconsumption compared to other groups (Kuo, Wechsler, Greenberg, & Lee, 2003; Veal & Ross, 2006).
Alcohol over-consumption in Australia has become a significant public policy issue in recent times, prompting social marketers to tum their attention to changing this behaviour. However despite the focus on behaviour change, there has been an over-emphasis on the communication element of the marketing mix with little evidence of social marketers using product, pricing or distribution approaches to reduce alcohol consumption (Rothschild, 1999). The focal behaviour change investigated in this thesis is risky drinking to moderate drinking.
This thesis investigates the communication aspect of message valence. This is the positive or negative tone of advertisements, used to encourage moderate drinking in young men. It goes beyond communication because the product element is included with considerations of branding. Logos of nonprofit, government and commercial organisations are included.
Message valence and brands are hypothesised to influence the Theory of Planned Behaviour (TpB) variables of attitudes towards the behaviour, perceived behavioural control and behavioural intention to moderate drinking. TpB is one of the most widely used models of the relationship between attitudes and behaviour and has been able to predict health behaviours (Norman, Bennett, & Lewis, 1998).
A two staged approach is adopted with focus groups and an experimental design using a questionnaire with 189 male university students participating. The findings address the overall research question of "do attitudes, perceived behavioural control and behavioural intentions to drink moderately change as a result of viewing a social marketing communication that is combined with branding?"
While there was no support in the data for any direct influence of message valence or brands, perceived behavioural control significantly changed after viewing the advertisement in the experimental design. A discussion of these findings and suggestions for future research are included.