The basic premise as to what drives volume in the beer industry is twofold: it is either through media or through price discounting, with a combination of both being the ideal situation. That being said, over the last 10 years, both AB and MC have lost millions of barrels and substantial market share. The reason, ineffective marketing and aggressive pricing. The numbers do not lie.
Over the last five decades there have been an endless number of media campaigns by AB, Miller, and Coors. Many have been very effective, however, some have been a total disaster. There was the Schlitz, Don’t Take Away My Beer ad, made by actor James Colburn that was in your face and very offensive. Then, Miller produced the infamous Dick ads, enough said. Then there are the classics like Miller Lite’s Tastes Great, Less Filling, which started a new category that still dominates the industry today. AB ran with This Buds For You!, along with some other variations that really drove the brand. These are two examples of classic ads which spoke to the consumer.
The question today is, why have the current messages failed to drive volume for these brands? Maybe the better question, is why have ads for AB and MC been ineffective, while some ads for other brands been very successful? Michelob Ultra, Coors, Corona, and Dos Equis have all seen great growth for years, but perhaps the personification of success is Modelo Especial!
What do these brands have in common, and what are they saying to the consumer that the others are not? Could there be an underlying theme that is resonating, not only with older consumers, but also with the millennials? A message that hits home to the cupcakes and buttercups that society has earmarked?
Coors has used the actor Sam Elliot, long known as a rough cowboy with a gruff voice, since 2007 as the voice for their retro Rocky Mountain ads. Coors has experienced single digit growth for years. Corona, has relied on the beach-in-the-bottle theme for decades, showing couples enjoying life on the beach. Michelob Ultra has illustrated a lifestyle with successful, chiseled bodies, that hits its intended mark, and the numbers are nothing short of incredible. Dos Equis and the Most Interesting Man in the World has been so successful that Heineken recently rebooted this ad with a younger man. The result has been that the numbers continue to grow, indicating the younger MIMW, resonates with younger men.
But, perhaps it is Modelo Especial that is the bell weather of just why these brands are so successful. Using music from the macho movie, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, which emphasizes the macho theme, while the ad highlights the brewing of Modelo Especial. These ads are definitely speaking to males.
Ads from Coors, Michelob Ultra, Corona, Dos Equis, and Modelo Especial speak to the quality of the beer, however, they all have the underlying macho theme that hits home for males of all ages. Men are saying, I cannot be like them, but I can drink their beer.
What is clear is that fraternity-style ads and ads-sharing-with-friends are not working. Masculine focused ads are hitting home and the numbers reflect that.
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly…..
Interesting thoughts Geoff. A few points to consider though:
1. Your assumption is that traditional tv advertising is still an effective means of driving trial and repeat as it was in the past. I believe this is a flawed premise. People are watching less tv than in the past. Additionally, when they do watch tv, with the dawn of the dvr and tivo they’re skipping commercials.
2. With foreign companies now owning the former American companies, in many cases the brand management teams are no longer American. With no disrespect meant, South American and European humor doesn’t always translate to American humor. While a certain behemoth is incredibly competent at cost cutting, they are equally as incompetent as marketeers and brand builders. They do not know how to communicate to Americans.
3. Whether the tv spots are good/effective or not, the US consumer has begun to move on from fizzy yellow watery beer. The growth of craft is not to be ignored. While craft may or may not be slowing (until there is a way to track direct brewery sales it remains in question), it will soon account for 20% of total US volume. Outside of Boston Beer, none of them advertise nationally. While total beer volume is flat to down, that 20% had to come from somewhere. Those consumers moved on from the big national brands and took their demand with them, thereby driving the volume of these big brands lower, regardless of their tv spots.
For the most part, I’m with you. Just a few counters to consider.
Thanks for the awesome blog!!