Heineken wants to stop drink-driving (and this is how)

Getting people to think twice about driving after a drink is a problem Heineken has been looking into, as part of a pub-based study in the UK.

2y ago


"Just one more!" A phrase that seems so innocent, yet it can lead to a world of misery. Particularly, for instance, if the police catch you and take your driving licence away or you end up wrapping your pride and joy around a tree.

Changing the behaviour of drinkers is, therefore, a good idea for everyone but how do you do it? Heineken has been investigating, as part of its 'When you drive, never drink' campaign, which debuted at the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal.


Basically, Heineken put observers in 10 bars in Reading and Greater Manchester so that it could study people's behaviour (mainly how much they drank), before asking them a few questions such as whether they drove and how else they planned to get home.

This was done for three days without any effort on Heineken's part to change behaviour and then a further three with various 'nudges' and promotional material present designed to do the opposite. By the end, Heineken had 700 exit interviews to mull over.

Manchester and Reading were chosen for one particular reason (and not a good one). They are, in fact, home to the most drink-driving instances in the UK. Oops.

“For our responsible drinking campaign to be effective, we looked long and hard to understand the root causes of the problem and in 2017 we attained valuable insights by conducting a global study that uncovered the behavioural drink driving triggers," commented Heineken global marketing director, Gianluca Di Tondo.

"This insight has given us the opportunity to better target our marketing in order to reduce drink driving by developing a robust behavioural change programme and a new communications campaign, both with a clear commitment to drive real change," he added.

With serious cash spent on the research and marketing and former F1 world champion, Nico Rosberg, as the ambassador, Heineken means business (which is somewhat strange for a beer company). But what exactly was the study and did it prove effective?

1) Drink-driving instances were reduced by up to half

Of the 10 bars used in the study, Heineken said it saw a reduction in drink-driving by as much as 50 per cent, which is pretty significant when you consider that around 220 people were killed and thousands injured by the issue in 2015.

2) Beer mats have the power to create change

Going alchhol-free should be acceptable

Going alchhol-free should be acceptable

Heineken refrained from using a cattle prod on those who drank and drive (strange that). Instead, it filled each bar with beer mats, posters, signs and other 'nudges'. These were located just about everywhere you could imagine, ranging from the car park and bar to the toilets.

3) Nachos work well, too

One of the problems surrounding drink-driving is that nodody wants to be the designated driver. To combat this, free nachos were offered to those who made a 'pledge' to stay off drink. This involved sticking your name on a card, 120 of which were signed during the experiment.

4) Bar-goers said the campaign helped change their habits

Other alcohol-free beers are available

Other alcohol-free beers are available

For whatever reason, having promotional material everywhere seemed to have the knock-on effect of making people think twice about having a cheeky pint. In fact, 60 per cent of those surveyed said it made them think about changing their behaviour.

5) The 'pledge' system made having a soft drink easier

Not only did the pledge mean free food for those who drove, it helped reduce the effect of peer pressure. 80 per cent of bar-goers said the programme made it easier to support the designated driver.

6) Access to alcohol-free beer is on the rise

No, you can't steal the beer mats

No, you can't steal the beer mats

Ordering a tea in a pub does feel a bit odd, so it is useful to know there are more and more alternatives. 14 per cent said it was actually easier to get alcohol-free beers during the test period. This obviously included Heineken's alcohol-free '0.0' beer, which is not that different to its alcohol-toting sibling. Honest.

7) The sample of people was small (but represents a good start)

With a view to rolling out the experiment globally, you could argue that Heineken's relatively short test period and slim findings are anything but indicative of a wider audience. But behavioural scientist Dr Helena Rubinstein is positive it has potential.

"The interventions act together as part of a set and, in this relatively small sample size, have proven to be successful in reducing reported drink driving behaviour," she said, "Rolled out globally, this could help reduce drink driving incidents worldwide."

8) Nico Rosberg and Jackie Stewart are advocates

Since his F1 world championship victory, Nico Rosberg has invested in Formula E

Since his F1 world championship victory, Nico Rosberg has invested in Formula E

Having a celebrity helps people take notice of a campaign, but then three-time F1 world champion Jackie Stewart has always been an advocate of safety. Only this time, it is from the perspective of normal drivers, not racing ones. Nico Rosberg, meanwhile, admitted he is "very passionate" about the subject.

9) A similar approach could be used for mobile phone use

There is a long road to travel down before the research can be honed into something all bars could make use of (if they wanted to) and you could argue that maybe car manufacturers should take on some of the responsibility.

Either way, Dr Helena Rubinstein agreed that these subtle nudges could help get people off their phones when driving, improving road safety levels even further.

10) Some bars have continued the campaign

This is what the pledge card looks like

This is what the pledge card looks like

Despite having to spend more on nachos and salsa, most of the 10 bars decided to keep the campaign going after the experiment (and appartently continue to do so).

This may seem strange as it appears to counter the idea of drinking, which is a bad thing for a purveyor of alcohol, but some of the bars said the rise of non-drinkers has been noticeable. Plus it makes sense to look after those who take the drinkers to and from the pub.

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