Sep 172019
 

Breweries will go to great lengths and spend millions of dollars to create internet meme for a brand. It is very difficult to simply create an effective branding tactic, not to mention having a brand’s identity become part of a generation’s lingo. If a brewery is fortunate enough to create such a marketing home run for a brand, then it becomes a question of how long can the brewery ride this success, and how does the marketing evolve?

Corona could be considered the personification of building a brand without losing its identity and core message.  After decades of touting the brand as “Beach in a Bottle,” the phrase still rings true today. 

Some great brands created slogans, and thus branding, that the consumer instantly connected to:  “When you are out of Schlitz, you are out of beer!” or “For all you do, this Bud is for you” and another, “If you got the time, we got the beer, Miller beer.” But with each of these brands, the advertising changed as the years passed and the brands’ popularity faded.

In 2006, Dos Equis discovered an internet meme that quickly became embedded into everyday language and drove the brand to double-digit growth. “The Most Interesting Man” campaign had great success with the line, “Stay thirsty my friends,” along with the myriad of impossible accomplishments that made up his stories.  Dos Equis rode this highly successful marketing campaign for 10 years. But when the man who played The Most Interesting Man part, Jonathan Goldsmith, was replaced with a younger version, the magic was lost and The Most Interesting Man campaign soon ended.

Now along comes the industries’ latest rocket ship, White Claw, which appears to be resistant to anything that will slow down its growth. While White Claw’s advertising is not unique, the brand has developed a strong online presence through ironic memes and parodies. There are a number of Instagrams devoted to jokes about White Claw, including whiteclawgang and itsawhiteclawsummer.  Retail accounts that either ran out of White Claw, or do not carry the product, are referred to as being “declawed.” It seems these White Claw memes are never ending. One truly cannot buy this kind of marketing, it is so unique. No doubt White Claw and its distinctive marketing have resonated with the millennial generation.  White Claw is a breweries’ marketing department dream product, and if played right, will remain that way for a number of years. Even the line extensions for White Claw could drive further sales. Think of the options:  Black Claw, Red Claw, Brown Claw, and others. The possibilities are endless.

White Claw, unlike Dos Equis might be a brand that the marketing people cannot mess up, however, that remains to be seen. Until that time comes, life is good for the White Claw distributors!

 Posted by at 6:00 am
Sep 102019
 

The frequently used statement  “People don’t leave jobs, they quit bosses” is often seen in today’s  social media posts, which makes one wonder, what goes through a boss’ mind upon seeing such a comment?

During Gambrinus’ hey days when Corona was on fire, many employees complained about the workload and the required correspondence with the brewery and wholesalers. Conversely, many employees enjoyed their time in the market for the simple fact that Gambrinus’ brands were on fire. Often employees were miserable until the annual bonuses were dispersed and only remained with the company until such time, typically at the end of the first quarter.  Once the bonuses were dispersed, the mass exodus began.

During the years that the Jos. Schlitz Brewing Co. was nipping at AB’s heals, Schlitz’s employee turnover was said to have been up to 70%. While it is difficult to quantify, it is safe to say that this loss and subsequent turnover of talent at Schlitz had to have a negative effect, resulting in the demise of the brand.

On the other hand, employees of the Mark Anthony Company are currently in the mist of one of the most incredible rides the industry has ever experienced. White Claw’s growth is remarkable. How does a company establish annual goals and bonuses when the growth is north of triple digits? One wonders what those numbers would look like if the White Claw production could be maintained. Tactical spending against While Claw would only be throwing gas on a roaring fire. Do the younger employees of Mark Anthony realize just how good it is for them?

Employees working for struggling companies express a completely different complaint. They know that their annual bonuses will not be paid, and they know that if their major brand is declining when the bonus goals are delivered, the internal pressure for management can be difficult. This despite the fact that in many cases, the brand’s decline started in the first place as a result of poor brand management.

Once again, AB announced another round of reorganizations, simply one of many, this time of their field sales teams. With the continued decline of Bud Light, at both the AB wholesalers’ and breweries’ level, pressure continues to mount. AB employees must be very thankful for Michelob Ultra. When Ultra growth slows or flattens, employees’ complaints will most definitely increase.

It seems a week does not go by without news of another craft brewery closing. Some of have been in business for three to five years. Many of the employees started with the craft, many of whom worked for free simply to get in the door. They put their heart and soul into a brewery only to see their dreams fail. One knows the complaints of these employees!

Employers and bosses need to be available to their employees and aware of their complaints, but employees also need to be aware of their environment.

There are times in life when, instead of complaining, you do something about your complaints. 

 Posted by at 6:00 am
Sep 032019
 

In the early 1970s, when Miller Lite hit the market and started to gain drinkers, Coors, and subsequently AB, jumped on board with their own versions of light beers. Both breweries’ first editions of light failed.  Coors Light redesigned their can color, changing it from a buff to silver; while AB changed their name from Budweiser Light to Bud Light. The rest is history.

At the time, Miller Lite was on fire, so both AB and Coors stayed the course. The light segment was viable but other breweries including Schlitz, Pabst, and regionals joined the trend with their respective versions of light beer. These beers, however, did not stick. When Corona caught fire and the industry realized that Corona was not a one-night stand, AB and Coors introduced Mexican-named beers in an effort to be competitive, both of which had little, if any success. 

Think about all the unique beers that have been tired over the decades, dry beers, ice beers, LA beers, even NA beers just to name a few.  None, however, have been successful. The beer industry has historically been nothing more than a copycat trade.  For example, Michelob Ultra, one of, if not thehottest brand around, has had multiple breweries attempt to copy Ultra’s success with their own low carb beers. MC, Heineken, Pabst, Modelo, and a slew of crafts have all introduced an Ultra knock-off. With the possible exception of Corona Premier, all the copy-cats have fallen by the wayside.

The talk of the beer industry is the unbelievable growth of the seltzer segment led by White Claw and Truly. White Claw is the hottest brand the industry has seen, while Truly currently represents approximately 40% of Boston Beers volume! This is remarkable. The growth of the seltzer segment has not gone unnoticed by the other players.  AB, MC, Pabst, and others have all introduced their own seltzer labels. To date, these brands have not even dented the growth of White Claw or Truly consequently these breweries are now moving to round two.

Pabst has introduced a higher ABV seltzer anticipating that this will drive sampling.  White Claw is now moving to a lower ABV with a higher price point. The real disruptor could be AB with Natural Light Seltzer. Natural Light is a long-established successful brand which is very popular with college students and millennials. With Natural Light’s Seltzer at a slightly higher ABV and with a price point much lower and in line with Bud Light, anticipate these younger drinkers to try the brand. A higher ABV and higher price point may play into the hands of White Claws and Truly with little to no success, but the Natural Lights Seltzer could be the label needed to crash their party.

Will the seltzer segment eventually pass the craft segment? Only time will tell, however, look for the major breweries to continue to bring new seltzers to market, all hoping to gain some traction. What is certain are the headaches and problems wholesalers and retailers will have with these new brands.

You should learn from your competitor but never copy. Copy and you die.

Editors note; This post was scheduled for August 20th but due to technical issues, it was not sent.

 Posted by at 6:00 am