Psychologists from the University of Missouri have found that marketing strategies can affect individual behaviours in very significant ways.
Two MU psychologists have found that students who viewed images of beer cans packaged and displayed in university colours believed that drinking beer was less dangerous than those students who saw images of regular beer cans.
"We found that when people identify themselves with a certain group, such as a college or university, and if that group 'endorses' a product, people assume the product is safe," said Chris Loersch.
People tend to feel a sense of trust and safety within their own groups, or what psychologists call "ingroups", he said.
These feelings of safety existed even when participants were subliminally exposed to the word "beer," providing evidence that the fan cans affect people's unconscious responses toward beer.
"These results are important given that alcohol consumption is associated with unsafe behaviour, often leading to increases in risk-taking, aggressiveness and likelihood of serious injury," Loersch said.
"Marketing campaigns that alter drinkers' perceptions of alcohol's potential risks-particularly at an automatic or unconscious level -- have no place in college communities.
Challenging the aggressive promotion of drinking, whether by campus social groups or national corporations, is important to create a campus culture that encourages responsible drinking," said Susan O'Neill, a psychologist with the MU Student Health Center.