Exploring responses to differing message content of pictorial alcohol warning labels

Louise Hassan, Sara Parry, Edward Shiu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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One way of tackling hazardous alcohol consumption is introducing warning labels on alcohol products. This research explores three under-researched message content areas in relation to alcohol warning labels: negative/positive framing of the message; use of signal words and qualifiers; and type of information used in the message (qualitative or quantitative), across message themes that depict social or health consequences. A qualitative and exploratory approach was undertaken utilising five focus groups of UK undergraduate students followed by 15 semi-structured interviews with UK adults. Discussions centred around responses to the alcohol warning labels that varied in message content characteristics. The students also created their own warning label designs based on what they believed would be useful for encouraging students to keep to low-risk drinking guidelines. Findings across both samples revealed a preference for negatively (loss) framed health messages that elicit fear and use evidence-based reasoning and statistics. The avoidance of signal words (e.g., ‘government warning’) and qualifiers (e.g., may cause) would likely make the messages more persuasive. Our findings contribute to understanding the influence of message content on consumer responses to alcohol warning labels. However, such message content characteristics are inherent in the design of many product warnings and our findings may apply to other contexts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2200-2219
JournalInternational Journal of Consumer Studies
Issue number6
Early online date27 Jan 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 27 Jan 2022


  • alcohol warning labels
  • focus groups
  • health warnings
  • label characteristics
  • label message content
  • semi-structured interviews
  • social warnings
  • warning design


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