Ambitious journalists gleefully expose the flaws in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) as a modality for treating problem drinking.
They cite everything from the seeming religious fundamentalism to the time commitment of attending so many meetings. Also, the statistics for success are horrific. Very few get sober and stay sober through AA. The reality is that more do that on their own, after realizing booze is messing up their lives, than through AA.
Yet, AA does help some. And that says a lot, given how destructive alcoholism is. In order to be allowed to continue being used in rehabs and recommended by therapists, that iconic institution has to rebrand.
What has to be ditched is the current arrogant image that AA is the one and only way to solve an alcohol problem. That's the platform on which the Roman Catholic church achieved influence, power and wealth - and over time got destroyed by such positioning and packaging. The leadership of a media-savvy pope may or may not be able to save it for another century.
The shrewd move for AA would be to present itself as one of a growing number of options. There are many good ones such as the movement for harm reduction and special attention to the needs of the female alcoholic.
Then the AA pitch would be configured as to why it's worth checking out. In short, the hard sell has to go. The new branding would be, like the old Honda one, as the sobriety program which sells itself.
Without rebranding, AA could fade away like many other well-intentioned institutions. Weight Watchers was founded as a respectful, nutritionally sound way to manage an eating problem. Currently, as a brand it has lost its way. And, remember when Staples was the good buddy of the small businessperson? Now, we scratch our head and wonder what it stands for in 2015.
A public-minded advertising firm could volunteer to do the AA rebranding pro bono. That could be undertaken to save the talent of all the Don Drapers who likely don't even recognize the pickle they are in.