Last week, during the Superbowl, you might have noticed a strange beer commercial. It didn't seem to be advertising for any company, just... beer. It showed people toasting in a ton of languages then a URL.
Flashback: CNN reported last month that beer sales are on the decline. Domestic breweries saw their market share fall 2% in 2005, while makers of whiskeys, scotches, and wines have all seen their market share rise. What the vigilant writers of CNN Money have missed, however, is that craft beers and imported beers both saw a 7% increase in market share this year. Each. I wouldn't exactly call that declining beer sales. But! If you're not a giant, multi-national publically held company you're hardly news, so let's get down to the truth of the matter:
Budweiser and their ilk are in trouble. As the public is attracted by classier beverages, they watch their domestic market share shrink. In order to reverse this slide, they are setting out to change the public's perception of beer. No longer will we have bikini-clad models making big tit jokes during the Superbowl to sell us domestic beer. Instead, with the help of a lobbying group The Beer Institute, domestic beer giants will be setting out to change our minds about what is hip to drink. The campaign has debuted at HeresToBeer.com.
As an experienced craft beer drinker who also has a healthy appreciation for whiskeys, scotches, and wine, I thought I would take the time to offer a few bits of advice to the Anheuser-Busch and everyone else as to the best way to reach their market.
So, Mr. Domestic Beer Marketing Person, pay attention.
Suggestion one: Show the similarities between your product and your competition. Instead of having buxom bikini babes saying in their best phone sex voices, "These bottles are so.... hard." maybe you focus on the properties of the product, instead of the packaging. Instead, try having buxom bikini babes taking a sip of beer and then discoursing:
Buxom Babe #1: Mmmm... this vintage is soooo good. There's so much character!
Buxom Babe #2: The December 2005 Bud? Yeah, you can really taste the giant stainless steel vat it was fermented in.
Suggestion 2: Name your beers after their ingredients. Many wines are named after the grapes that are used to make them. Educating your consumer is the best way to get them interested in the product. Try re-releasing some of your product lines using some of the largest portions of ingredients. It might really get people interested in enjoying the finer points of your beverage. For instance, try:
Budweiser: Corn Syrup
MGD: Rice Hulls
(or maybe even)
Coors: Adjunct City
Suggestion #3: Try being more healthy! If you take a look around the general food market, you'll notice many products that, at some point, might have been seen largely as junk food have been trying to re-vamp their image to appeal to a larger market that's more interested in keeping themselves happy. We know that Light Beer isn't selling well nowadays, and the Low Carb Beer phenom wasn't an industry turnaround, but maybe you can take some other cues from other markets. I'm talking about vitamin fortified beer. It's not just for breakfast anymore, because now it's fortified with 12 essential vitamins and minerals! Yum!
I love the flavor on this new Coors! Is that... riboflavin?
Suggestion #4: Champagne corked beer. I know they all say that you can't judge a book by its cover, but in America that's clearly not true. People make immediate judgements based on how something looks. If you're going to try to appeal to all those people who like scotch, whiskey, and wine in all of their tall, elegant bottles and attractive non-light sensitive sloshing liquid, you're going to have to work on your packaging. Cans won't cut it. Bottles are so 2005. Craft beers do it all the time, and they don't call the High Life the Champagne of Beers for nothing. Give it a shot! I can see the ads, now:
(Scene: Two enormous guys in football jerseys jumping off the couch as their team wins the game. They hoot, they holler, they high five.)
Announcer: Time to celebrate.
(AC/DC's Have a Drink on Me fades in as one of the guys pulls out a champagne corked bottle of Miller High Life, and pops the top off. He pours generous amounts of golden sparkling liquid into two tall crystal champagne flutes.)
Guy #1: That was an awesome game, man!
Guy #2: Duuuude!
(They clink glasses and each take a sip.)
Announcer: Drink a forty like a REAL man.
Last resort. If all else fails, if you try everything above and your market share continues to shrink, let me give you something radical to try: Make something that doesn't taste like ass. Those pesky picky consumers will line right up.
IF YOU LIKED THIS COLUMN...
2.20.06 @ 8:40a
From a purely aesthetic standpoint, I really like the sound of the words "adjunct city."
2.20.06 @ 9:06a
My stepson is a beer connoisseur, and a couple of years ago he took my daughter and me on a little tour of his favourite local microbreweries. Since I really don't drink alcohol anymore I only had a sip of each one he demonstrated, but I must say their flavours were much improved over the beer I used to drink, even the imported ones. If I still drank beer I'd be buying these improved products. Maybe beer sales have gone down because of people like me who no longer drink at all. No, that can't be it. If you improve the product, sales might improve. Seems reasonable.
2.20.06 @ 9:22a
Craft breweries have made huge leaps forward every year, and they're the reason that people are turning toward beer as a "fine" beverage.
I find the effort of macrobreweries to "improve the image" of beer to be ludicrous, considering they are largely responsible for the image it (on the whole, in America) currently has.
It really comes down to - if you want a consumer base who is going to pay more than $5 for a 6-pack, then you're going to have to create a product that's worth paying for. It has precious little to do with the commercials you run on television.
2.20.06 @ 10:16a
Like most consumables, the big breweries care more about the image of the product rather than the product itself.
I'm not a big beer fan at all (Erik falls down), so for me to have a beer, it's all about taste, just like any other alcoholic beverage. That's why I like going out with beer snobs, because at least they're going to make sure I try something that might actually taste good.
2.20.06 @ 11:06a
Incidentally, I should note that I think that the macrobreweries do a great job with their product. They make an incredibly consistent product that tastes exactly like they want it to.
I like to compare it to Kraft American Singles. They have a very particular flavor that a lot of people love, but they will never, ever, compare to a good Stilton. And no amount of image changing will ever change that.
On a wholly different topic, check out the website. It's actually pretty good, aside from the "what kind of beer are you" quiz.
3.3.06 @ 4:41p
Sometimes, I hate being right.