Corona Premier, Modelo’s line extension, targeted specifically at Michelob Ultra, is this week rolling out across the country. Another line extension from AB, Michelob Ultra-Pure Gold, another low carb and low calorie beer will also be rolled out. Remember, last year, Heineken also went after Ultra with Amstel Xlight, albeit with little success.
In early 2018, IRI numbers are trending similarly to recent years’ trends, with the big three: Bud Light, Coors Light and Miller Lite, all continuing to slide, although Miller Lite was slightly up. Michelob Ultra continues to fly with an increase of 23%+. Interestingly, in addition to the major suppliers starting to target specifically Michelob Ultra, more and more crafts are coming up with low ABV, calorie and low carb beers, ALL under the term sessionable!
Given that the industry seems to be shifting back toward light beers, why then are the big three struggling to turn around their sales? Perhaps the industry is looking at a classic case of these three brands serving as studies in the product lifecycle. Remember, all three brands were introduced in the 1970s, which means that Miller Lite, the first one introduced, will soon be 50 years old. Coors light followed Miller Lite, which was followed by Budweiser Light (Bud Light).
So the question is: is the decline in sales for the big three due to the product lifecycle, or is it an issue is a marketing life cycle? Given the success of Ultra, one would think these three beers are declining due to the marketing lifecycle. If many crafts are entering the market with their version of light beers, it would have to be the marketing.
Oddly, Miller Lite, Coors Light, and Bud light all have one item in common. None of the other beers have the term “light” in their name or on their branding. Jim Koch, for years resisted introducing a light beer, but eventually did so with the introduction of Sam Light. Certainly a lighter version of Sam Adams, but Sam Light was not anywhere near the liquid of the domestic lights. It was a viable brand, but not another Ultra.
Miller Lite, Coors Light and Bud Light were all line extensions, lighter versions of their longtime beers. For years, these three brands grew regardless of the level of marketing support. It was not until 2008 that these brands turned negative, and they have been in decline ever since.
The brands being brought to market by the crafts brewers, however, are not line extensions. They are new brands with names that indicate “light” without saying “light.” These brands include: All Day IPA, Nooner, and Dayblazer, to name a few.
Is it that simple? If it was, would not AB and MC already have understood this? The next latest and greatest beer might be sitting in a wholesaler’s warehouse, in the back corner, on a partial pallet. And 20 years from now, Bud Light, Miller Lite or Coors Light might just be in that same back corner on a partial pallet.
The strength of brand loyalty begins with how your product makes people feel.