retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kate McMahon

The much-hyped sequel to The Hangover opening next week is certain to be a box office smash.

What’s less certain is whether 7-Eleven’s promotional tie-in campaign with The Hangover Part II will be hailed as smart marketing or condemned as irresponsibly promoting reckless drinking.

Sure, the morning after an evening of debauchery is entertaining on screen, but should the nation’s largest convenience store chain - and the nation’s third-largest purveyor of beer - be linking its signature products to alcohol-induced blackouts? Seems like risky business - literally - to me.

I must confess, I thought the original Hangover was a riot. Judging from the trailer, the sequel, which brings the bachelor buddy binge to Bangkok, promises to push the outrage envelope even further.

That’s good for an R-rated comedy. But the question is whether it is risky for a mainstream company, retailer or service provider to be associated with it.

Announcing the promotion, 7-Eleven’s news release trumpets:

“‘The Hangover Part II’ fans can bounce back from their wild nights with 7-Eleven in-store specials, exclusive online content and a chance to win a trip to Las Vegas!

The company concedes it “can’t changed what happened the night before” but certainly seems to celebrate the notion that lost evenings are laughing matters.

Not exactly the message that most parents of teenagers/young adults want to spread. And it concerns me that this promotion will particularly appeal to teenage boys who aren’t even old enough to drink legally.

The in-store promotions, which began May 2, include five Super Big Gulp refillable cups featuring the movie’s “wolfpack” of characters. There is also a mobile scavenger hunt, using a SCVNGR app for iPhones and Droids, in which users “check in” at stores, complete tasks and amass points for prizes and a chance at the Vegas trip.

For the uninitiated, a key plot point in both the original Hangover and the sequel is the buddy who gets “lost” along the way. 7-Eleven notes that “you don’t need to misplace anyone” to participate in the interactive game.

The “lost evening” really comes into play on 7-Eleven’s Facebook Page, where users can send “Get Well Cards” to their friends the next morning. For example:

“Remember Last Night? If you forgot what happened I’m here to remind you.”

“Last night got a little out of control. Fortunately, I know where you can find a breakfast sandwich. And your dignity.”

Noting that “everyone knows that the morning after calls for some serious refueling” – 7-Eleven is offering a breakfast sandwich and coffee special for $3.

I’m no prude. I’m all for a raucous comedy on-screen, but find it hard to believe that it is good business to publicly make light of extreme drunkenness. I can’t shake the feeling that 7-Eleven is taking a risk here, and that some bad publicity linked to its promotion could end up giving the c-store chain its own hangover, and it’ll take more than a few aspirin to make it go away.

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