Friday, December 24, 2010

What I learned from Beer Marketing

Back in 1971, beer marketing took a major turn. The problem with American beer was, it pretty much all tasted the same. That is before Sam Adams, pale ales or the other beers which are distinctly different than "old school" American beers like Bud and Miller.  

These "mainstream" American beers were (and are) made from the same ingredients, using the same process, yielding the same results. Tastes test have consistently shown that beer drinkers who are fiercely loyal to one brand can not tell the difference in blind taste tests. How could marketing executives get the consumer to switch brands? 

Most traditional beer ads promoted the superior taste of the beer. Other ads generated interest with a comely female actress or used a star to build a "cool" factor about the beer. The ads, as you would suspect, were all about the beer.

At one time, Miller beer promoted themselves as "The Champagne of Bottled Beer." This had something to do with the extra carbonation in Miller beer but it was also an attempt to promote the "superior taste." This helped them to carve out a niche with people who liked beer but found it socially beneath their status or preferred other alcoholic beverages. 

What Miller discovered was that they were being successful with this niche market but that their target audience only drank a couple of beers from time to time. The real beer drinkers were the blue collar folks who drank beer all the time and in large quantities. If they could re-brand themselves to appeal to the working class "Joe 6-pack", they would increase sales significantly.  The term "Joe 6-pack" was actually coined by the advertising industry as an reference (albeit an unflattering one) to this average beer drinker.

In 1971,
Miller started showing TV commercials depicting guys leaving construction sites and using the tag line, "If you've got the time, we've got the beer" and "It's Miller Time!" These commercials were very successful. They focused on the beer drinker and not the beer. That was huge. Beer drinkers (who felt somewhat marginalized in general) started buying Miller.  I remember when I was a carpenter, occasionally I would hear someone say, at the end of the day, "It's Miller Time" and everyone knew what he meant. 

This was so successful, that Budweiser (the number one selling beer) started running ads that said "For all you do, this Bud's for you." A powerful new age dawned where the customer, not the product, was the focus. 

James Snider is a marketing consultant, responsible for developing the 3.4 billion dollar 1394/FireWire market. James has over 16 years of marketing experience with 7 years working for Fortune 100 companies, 8 years as executive director of a non-profit and, since the summer of 2009, as a strategic business development consultant.

1 comment:

  1. Great article. Too bad that many take this to heart in the wrong places. The conditions behind the beer industry were "American beers were (and are) made from the same ingredients, using the same process, yielding the same results". Thus, you can sell based on building customer loyalty through camaraderie techniques. Too bad that some people think the same will work in markets where there IS significant product differentiation. You can't keep customer loyalty through such shallow techniques when the competitor has a better product, and the quickest win with a better product is to focus on why it is better. Of course, you still need to focus on the customers and why THEY will think it is better.