Problem: Marketing Malt Liquor
During the summer of 1991, the surgeon general of the United States and advocacy groups led by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) launched a campaign to remove G. Heileman Brewing Company’s malt liquor PowerMaster from store shelves. The LaCrosse, Wisconsin-based brewer had experienced a series of financial setbacks. In January 1991 the company filed for protection from creditors in a New York bankruptcy court, claiming to be "struggling under a huge debt load." (Mix Freedman, "Heileman Will Be Asked to Change Potent Brew's Name," Wall Street Journal, June 20, 1991, p. Bl.) In an attempt to reverse its financial decline, Heileman introduced PowerMaster with a 5.9 percent alcohol content. Most malt liquors (defined by law as beers with alcohol levels above 4 percent) have a 5.5 percent average content, as compared with the typical 3.5 percent alcohol level of standard beers. PowerMaster came under fire from both anti-alcohol and African American activists. These groups charged that Heileman had created the name and the accompanying advertising campaign, which featured a black male model, with the intent of targeting young black men, who consume roughly one-third of all malt liquors. U.S. Surgeon General Antonia Novello joined the Heileman critics, calling the PowerMaster marketing campaign insensitive. Citing the economic burden that a legal contest to retain the brand name would entail, the company discontinued the product. However, beer industry executives and members criticized the government's role in the controversy. One newspaper columnist cited race as the critical factor in the campaign to remove PowerMaster, noting that the "It's the power" advertising slogan used in the marketing of Pabst Brewing Co.'s Olde English 8OO malt liquor had gone unchallenged. James Sanders, president of the Washington, DC-based Beer Institute, contended that the government focused on the PowerMaster label to avoid having to focus on other factors such as unemployment and poverty, the real problems that the black community confronts.
Problem 1. Would it be deceptive or manipulative advertising to call your beer 'PowerMaster" and to use black male models?
Problem 2. Is it ethically insensitive for a company to target a specific market identified by race and gender?