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.
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?” …….