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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Cheaper Cheap Beer Roughing Up Cheap Beer

"Brand loyalty" is all well and good ... until the cost of supporting your cheap brand runs into the realities of a collapsing economy. Then it's off to the next, cheaper cheap beer:
Heineken sales sank 18% from the previous year in grocery, convenience and drug stores during the two-week period ended July 5, followed by Budweiser at 14%. Corona Extra sales dropped 11%, while Miller Lite declined 9% and Bud Light fell 7%. Coors Light sales held up better, falling less than 1% from a year ago.

Meanwhile, sales of “subpremium” beers including Busch, Natural Light and Keystone posted “substantial gains”, according to Ad Age, which didn’t provide the specifics.
Ad Age adds (amusingly):
But while the economy is clearly dragging on the biggest beer brands, the severity of the declines also raises questions about the effectiveness of some of the category's biggest ad budgets. The decline at Bud Light comes as the brand is nine months into its "Drinkability" effort, designed to give the beer a more product-attribute-fueled push than its former frat-humor efforts did.

Miller Lite has tried to pound its "Great Taste" to sales gains in the same manner its new stable mate Coors Light succeeded with a single-minded focus on "Rocky Mountain cold refreshment." But that effort, too, has yet to gain traction.
Gee, I wonder why those ad campaigns have failed to sway drinkers. It couldn't be because, you know, since all tin-can beer tastes the same, customers are buying the cheapest stuff. Nah, couldn't be that.


  1. Funny....

    The beer has always been the same... its all marketing.. maybe FINALLY after so many years... people are finally learning how to see past all the marketing and media. I'm glad I was raised in a household that unintentionally raised me to look past and beyond all the commercials, ads and hype. I like hearing about deals, but I don't want to watch someone hype a product. If I want that product, I will just go out and buy it.

  2. I HATE that drinkability crap!

    The only beer ads of late I have been enjoying are the Miller Highlife ones where the dude comes and takes the beer away. : )

  3. I hate to be the one to say it, but all the "tin-can beer" do not taste the same. Unless of course you mean that light lagers don't appeal to your taste sensibility, then I could see how you might make that broad statement.

    Although I know you won't do it, but I'm going to suggest it anyway. Go get a Miller Lite, PBR, and Hamms and taste them side by side. I do believe you'll quickly come to the conclusion that they don't taste the same.

    I know, I lose craft beer cred (snobbishness) for saying that, but oh well. To beat the heat yesterday I had a Spaten Munich, Anchor Summer, PBR, and some homebrewed Cream Ale. Just in case that can save some of my cred....

  4. Ralph, about a decade ago I did a story for Willamette Week wherein I assembled eight macro beers (the big three and an assortment of other tin-can beers, none "lite"), eight beer drinkers, and asked them to 1) identify/distinguish the beer and 2) rate it. Guess what: no one had any idea which was which. And some of my tasters have some very intensive experience.

  5. @Jeff: The fact that your panel of tasters couldn't identify the beers in question doesn't necessarily mean they all taste the same.

  6. Aleconner,

    True enough, but I have run the experiment (more than most can say) and was satisfied with the results. By all means, try it yourself. It was a blast (though no thanks to the beers' flavor). Report back your findings--

  7. I dare say if your panel couldn't distinguish between a PBR and a Hamms it was a poor panel. I wouldn't expect them to be able to have a blind test and tell you the name on the can. I'm sure your typical BJCP judge doesn't slum with the macros.

    I can't seem to locate that article on the ww site, it would be an interesting read.

  8. @Jeff: I *have* tried it before, albeit about as long ago as you did. While I couldn't put a name to any of the beers (no surprise as I don't make a habit of drinking them), they most certainly did not taste the same. Surprisingly (?), bland and boring come in many subtle varieties.

  9. Yeah, it seems to only exist in hard copy anymore (the old WW archives are spotty). Maybe I'll see if I have a hard copy and transcribe it. A timeless post.

    Aleconner, I shouldn't oversell the "taste the same" line. You're right, there are subtle distinctions. But they're so small and so unmemorable that by far the biggest contribution to their character is what we impute from our own mind--which is why these beers advertize so heavily. If you think there's something recognizeably superior about canned beer brand X, you're likely to believe it, whether or not you can actually identify that beer in a blind tasting.