How to Sell beer and not change the World.

The XXXX Gold Bogans

We are doing something a little different today. The following post is in response to a very interesting article written by Matt Kirkegaard on Brew News. So go here and read this and then come back here.
Beer has a terrible image. It is seen as the drink of bogans and slobs whilst wine and spirits are a high end classy choice, even though from what I see most of the problems with alcohol come from wine, spirits and RTDs rather than the amber liquid that we all love so much.
So far so agreeable, but here is where myself and Matt’s thought diverge.  Matt seems to think that the major beer companies should be running something akin to an education campaign about changing the perceptions of beer. 
 If they did they would be shithouse marketers. Their job is to get you to drink as much of their (generally low taste and generic) product as possible. That’s it. It’s not to make you love beer as a category, understand hops varieties, try new styles or God forbid drink less beer (those little ‘drink responsibly’ logos in the corner of ads are more about avoiding government legislation than getting you to actually drink responsibly).
 Of course there is no reason that you have to portray beer drinkers as bogans to sell beer, Corona and Peroni prove that. But let’s look at it this way, you are the marketing manager of XXXX Gold, already everyone thinks your beer is for fat, blue/grey collar workers who are down to earth, sociable and love watching or playing sport with mates. This group lives the good life and loves recreational and social sports like fishing and cricket. Also keep in mind that on about day 2 of your uni marketing course you have been taught that it is close to impossible to change market perceptions. So the smart marketer plays up to the stereotype, takes the path of least resistance and sells beer to the people who drink a lot of beer.

The VB Metrosexuals (Real men wear cardigans not lifejackets)

Now what happens if you try to buck the trend and modernise you brand. Well then you replace the fishing dudes with young dudes with beards and hand cream issues at bbqs, where shock horror there are women. Of course then you are VB. And if you are VB your market share has dropped by 12% in the last year (whilst XXXX grew by 9%) and if you were the advertising agency working on VB you’d get sacked.
The big beer marketers out there aren’t dumb (contrary to what the fixie bike riding, double IPA swilling beardies out there believe). They know there are people out there who aren’t beer swilling bogans, they also know that to reach these people you don’t run big mass TV campaigns. This is why you don’t actually see that much mainstream advertising for Matilda Bay and James Squire, and Little Creatures and White Rabbit (all of which are the biggest selling craft breweries and all owned, at least partly by Kirin/Lion beverages or SAB Miller). 
Of course the existence of these brands shows that the major brewers have a foot in both camps, they know that generic mainstream brands like VB and XXXX will die out, but they also know that it will be a very slow death, and they will be there with Corona, Summer Bright, Fat Yak, Pure Blonde and Little Creatures that will be the brands of the next generation (or maybe just the next year before some other new hot brand comes along).
Oh and I know this isn’t a popular view amongst the beer geek mafia, but it turns out although we all think we are God’s gift to beer drinking, and think we are sticking to the man by boycotting the Kirin and SAB Miller brands (although let’s face it we all still drink their brands that we like) but the big beer companies couldn’t care about us. They want to target the beer drinker that has one favourite beer (theirs) that they buy by the slab not the beer geek who are buying a mixed dozen, and asks the bar tender ‘what’s on the rotating tap?’ You and your philandering palette are their worst nightmare.   

The next question of course is ‘What does this mean to Craft brewers?” …….


7 thoughts on “How to Sell beer and not change the World.

  1. A very late reply to your post Tipples.

    I don’t think it was fair to draw the conclusion that I think brewers should become bad marketers from my article. My point was that their current marketing is actually producing a declining return and, when beer consumption is at its lowest ebb in two generations, perhaps the people marketing beer are doing a crap job already. I think they can sell just as much to as many people while attracting new drinkers (and bring back lost ones) to the fold if they don’t make drinking beer look like such a yob pastime.

    I’m not sure if you’ve seen the follow up article but Canadian Club has hit on the very point of boorishness in their latest campaign. You don’t need to make beer drinkers look like a mob of tossers, but as that post showed, there is little difference in the marketing used by XXXX now and that used to shame blokes into changing their lifestyles in the 1970s. My argument is actually that Corona is a good example of what I mean, the advertising makes it almost look classy. No education, no talk of hops, just they don’t use fat, unshaven yobs as the face of their beer. More people identify with that image these days than corpulent drunks resting tinnies on their guts. But the more that brewers appeal to the lowest, the more they drag down the overall perception of beer.

    • Hi Matt, Thanks for stopping by, I did see the Canadian Club advertisement and your article on it, it was nice of them to illustrate your point so well, of course they were never going to play up the positive aspects of beer now were they?
      I think the thing we need to remember is that the VB or XXXX marketers are not selling beer, they are selling VB and XXXX. Foster/SAB Miller or Lion/Kirin know, as you do, and I do that all beer drinkers are not the same (although as a marketer I find the target audiences from Lion disturbingly vague, I would like to think the internal use ones are a little more detailed that those released to the media) They know that there are fat slobs, and young hipsters, and shock horror, even females.
      They also don’t need VB to see to all of the them, In fact I’m sure they are using stereotypes to segment the market. They know VB appears to sports loving fat guys with an esky (and if they didn’t know that previously they do now after the crying men debacle) they also know if you don’t want to be seen a fat slob you can buy Corona (I agree wonderfully marketed for what is a terrible beer), or a Crownie (if you are successful, and don’t really like beer) or Fat Yak (if you actually like beer), and the interesting thing when they advertise Fat Yak they don’t show people, or rely on stereotypes, because they understand that the market doesn’t what to be pigeon holed, and don’t want to be marketed to in an obvious way. Oh and Matilda Bay probably don’t have the money to spend on the market research, which of course is what ruins all innovation in advertising, and makes everything reinforce that status quo.
      I think most beer wankers would be better off not wasting so much time hating the big guys, they should just ignore them (like they do us) and spent their time supporting the craft breweries we all love so much.
      Also your article on beer is restaurants was brilliant – now that’s a problem, of course it’s probably caused in part by the stereotype of beer drinkers being unsophisticated, damn influence of advertising.

      • I think you just made my point for me. By having a shortsighted look at just one brand at a time, they are reducing the overall market for beer. That’s the point I made at the start of the article, they give each of their individual brands brand values, but don’t consider that beer’s broader perception matters as well. The total market for beer is declining and, while brand perception is just one factor in that, I think it is a factor contributing to the decline. I think that in marketing their individual brands they should also be asking, “does this make beer look better or worse overall.”

        I don’t accept that they can’t reach the same people as with their traditional fat-blokes-sinking-piss-in-a-boat advertising in a way that doesn’t bring down the overall perceptions of beer at the same time.

        I fully take your point that their job is to sell beer but by taking the path of absolute least resistance and pandering to the lowest means that they are increasingly reducing beer’s market and at the same time making it harder for the new beer markets to grow.

  2. Interesting, I still not convinced that this is happening as much as we think, I think we are just hyper senstive to it. I’m going to go do some more research, stand by for another post on this

    • Don’t think I expect them to change their approach. The post was as much a response to their quarterly media releases blaming beer’s decline on the weather, the economy, changing palates, increased competition, high Australian dollar, increased health consciousness…et al. The one thing that they don’t acknowledge is their own role in making beer less socially acceptable in an increasingly large range of demographics. I agree with you that perceptions are very hard to change…and that is doubly so when you have created (or advanced) that perception yourself.

  3. Pingback: How do CUB and Lion really advertise their brands? | Tipples

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s