These pages have often referenced the historic struggles experienced by the Jos. Schlitz Brewing Co. In its efforts to remain not only relevant and to enhance the stock prices, a corporate decision was made around 40 years ago to quicken the brewing fermentation process. The unfortunate result negatively altered both the taste and clarity of the liquid. Frank Sellinger, the new President of Schlitz who had come from AB, and was a brew master by education, quickly changed the formula back to its original recipe. He subsequently delivered that message to the public.
Frank’s initial message to ensure the public of the beer quality, unfortunately, did not affect the negative sales trends. Consequently, Schlitz went after Budweiser and Miller by conducting televised taste tests. These ads did not attack the quality of Budweiser or Miller they did, however, focus on the taste of Schlitz verses the taste of Bud and Miller. History has shown the ineffectiveness of these commercials.
It was not long after the Schlitz ads ran that Coors Brewing Co., in an effort to get more traction with their eastern expansion, ran newspaper ads citing fusil oil as a by-product of the brewing process of both Schlitz and Budweiser. August Busch III called Pete Coors in an attempt to have these ads pulled for the sake of the industry. Pete complied and ended that campaign.
In recent years, the industry has seen ads declaring products with fewer calories and fewer carbs than competitors. With the advent of the seltzers, where their labels/ads promote low ABV, carbs, calories, and in some products, no carbonation, the highlight attributes of their products are self-promotion and do not lambast the competition.
AB’s much-discussed Super Bowl ads highlighted both Coors Light’s and Miller Lite’s use of corn oil in the brewing process. While AB claims it does not use corn oil in its brewing process, controversy has none-the-less started anew in the industry. MC has fired back by taking the high road and not attacking AB but instead explaining how corn oil is used and which AB brands use the oil.
The controversial ads had other responses: Boston Beers distanced itself by tweeting, “No corn syrup AND no rice. #barley#hops#water#yeast.” Adam Collins, vice president of communications and community affairs for MC, reflects what some in the industry believe: “The Bud Light ad says more about their market position than it does about any @MillerCoors products.” Collins added, “When was the last time ABI used their Super Bowl ad to attack a competing brand? Miller Lite has been gaining share for 17 straight quarters and someone’s feeling the heat!”
If it was ABI’s intent to drive the social media mentions, they succeeded. By half time AB social-mention spikes were close to 47K. The follow-up continues thus leading one to believe at least from that aspect, that ABI must be pleased.
It could be possible that unless ABI’s trends change to the positive, we could see additional ads with similar messaging. The fall out could extend well past ABI and MC. Craft brands that cut corners on their ingredients will have to address their consumer’s questions, “What’s in your beers?”
Advertising does not create a product advantage. It can only convey it.