Beer Advertising – Selling a Lifestyle
After reading this now (year old) post on Budweiser from Brew Studs, it got us talking about beer marketing. It’s a conversation that a few of us always seem to have at the pub. Why do macro-brewed lagers do so well at the tap? Forgetting that, yes, craft beer is continually gaining in market share across the world, the fact remains, the big breweries have control and will be probably continue to have control for a very long time.
Beer advertising has, for a long time, been about selling a lifestyle. As with tobacco advertising and tobacco brands, the type of a beer a person drank said something about who they were. If you chose one brand over another brand, you were a certain type of person.
Australia’s Victoria Bitter for example (which is a lager by the way) has long lived by the slogan “a hard earned thirst needs a big cold beer,” and there advertisements for as long as anyone can remember reflects this. It reflects a lifestyle of hard working Australians, the “Aussie battler,” who earns a refreshing drink at the end of the day. Really, their advertising hasn’t changed much since the ’80’s.
Meanwhile, another Australian macro-lager, Carlton Draught, appeals to a different market segment. The happy-go-lucky Aussie larrikan. Both Carlton Draught and Victoria Bitter are owned by Carlton and United Breweries (CUB), but they’ve managed to get two “stereotypical” Australian market segments, which both happen to be the broadest, with their two flagship beers. These are two Australian lifestyles, and the beer a person chooses, whether it be a Carlton Draught of a VB, says a lot about them.
So when craft beer drinkers highlight the ridiculousness of advertising by large breweries it’s well, not surprising. Yes, Brew Studs makes more than valid points that we here at Brew in Review agree with, but in a way, we’re not comparing apples with apples.
If we think of craft and micro-brewed beers (in general) as a single brand, people are expressing who they are when they choose them over the mass produced, yellow coloured, “beer” we all like to make fun of. Craft beer advertising sells a lifestyle in the same way large breweries sell a lifestyle. It’s just that they’re selling something different.
If we take this to something less emotive (for beer drinkers at least), if you look at advertisements for, say, Louis Vuitton and The Gap, they’re both selling clothes, but they’re both selling something very different. Maybe people aren’t trying to intentionally say something about themselves when they wear a sensible shirt from The Gap, but it still says something about that person nonetheless.
As larger breweries try to appeal to craft beer drinkers, we’ll continue to make fun of them for taking pride in an inferior product (is that fact or opinion?). But that’s not the point of their product, is it? Other large breweries take the tactic of trying to appeal to craft beer drinkers by making beer advertisements that try to give a story behind their beer, to appeal to a lifestyle. The advertisers are missing the mark. Macro-breweries can’t have it both ways as the every man’s drink as well as the drink of the connoisseur.
If we were making a national advertising campaign to advertise “craft beer,” we have some ideas on what lifestyle to appeal to, but they’re hardly thought out! Any ideas are welcome in the comments.