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Friday, August 14, 2009

Coors for the Ladies

Last night, Gillian Edwards left an intriguing comment on my gender preferences post:
I work for an initiative called BitterSweet Partnership in the UK which has been set up to address the fact the UK beer industry has traditionally ignored women (an example being stereotypcial and sexist advertising) Beer shouldn’t be pitched as a masculine drink and it’s great to get other people’s opinions on this.
Sounds good, right? I envisioned a little grassroots effort where women worked to pop the kind of cultural stereotypes I discussed in my post. Pro-beer, pro-women, cool. Sadly, no.

Rather, it's a very highly-produced site owned and operated by the Molson Coors corporation. Using a classic technique, the company is playing to a targeted group with a sympathetic campaign. But while it comes packaged in social-justice wrapping paper, it's just an old-time marketing campaign. Coors has no particular interest in encouraging beer-drinking among women or dispelling long-held stereotypes. They want to encourage women to drink Coors, period.

A couple years ago, Coors launched a Latino-targeted campaign, and with admirable candor, admitted that the goal was to play on emotional sympathies to push product:
"The African American and Hispanic markets together make up nearly one-third of the population in the U.S. and 21 percent of all U.S. males ages 21-34 are Hispanic. While Coors Light's cold refreshment is the same for any consumer, we tailor how we communicate that message to ensure it builds the personality of the brand and connects emotionally with multicultural consumers."
This is no different. It's a company using exactly the same Madison Avenue techniques to appeal to women that it used when it objectified them in ads like the Coors Light twins series. Or the more offensive "Wingman" spots. In politics, this kind of thing is called "astroturf" because it mimics a grassroots campaign. In the commercial sphere, it's just called marketing. Caveat emptor--and for me, no sale.

Coors is not pro-women. It's pro-Coors.


  1. I agree with your sensibilities that we will show progress when gender cues are no longer used to promote beer. Or other beverages.

    I do take umbrage, though, at equating marketing with deceptive political campaigning. It's a bit like me saying that all blogging is like yellow journalism or some other such sweeping, and incorrect, statement.

    I imagine that most of my women friends and family are immune to Coors' attempts to influence their preferences for beer. They are mostly in the craft beer camp. And, many of them take offense at some of their blatantly sexist ads. No sale, indeed. But, please, marketing is not a catch-all term for deception, obfuscation and manipulation.

  2. I do take umbrage, though, at equating marketing with deceptive political campaigning.

    Mark, I don't think my sentence was especially clear on this, but I wasn't equating all marketing to deceptive political astroturfing. I was trying to equate this "Bittersweet Partnership" to an astroturf political campaign.

  3. Corporations are by definition amoral. Coors has Coors interest at heart as it should. Coors is not a nonprofit social organization promoting "social justice". They work for the bottom line and the shareholders to make money. One word: Business.

  4. I had another thought I wanted to share with you Jeff.

    "no sale"?

    You mean you were considering Coors and this marketing campaign changed you mind?


    Were you suggesting to others what their purchases should be because you are outraged?

    Just wasn't sure what you meant there.

  5. Ralph, the issue isn't that Coors is trying to sell their beer, it's that they've created a faux social justice "organization" to play on the sympathies of those (like me) who want women to feel more welcome in the world of beer. But it's disingenous, crass, and--well, amoral. Sell beer, just don't expect me to buy into this "up-with-women" campaign when you've spent 50 years trying to sell beer by objectifying women.

    That's where the "no sale" comes in. I'm not buying this pro-women scam campaign. The second it appears to have failed as a beer-selling gambit, Coors will be back to women body-painted as silver bullet cans.

  6. Because, ishould add, it is actually possible to be socially responsible and sell beer. Local craft breweries do it all the time.

  7. Ah, no sale on their ad campaign. Ok then, I was a little unclear. My bad. Thanks for clarifying.

  8. Meh, screw it...I couldn't let it slide out that easy. This goes back to the other post on race where you didn't answer my questions.

    Why do you care about this ad campaign Jeff? I don't get it. Don't buy their products that should let them know it isn't working. Coors isn't breaking the law. So they use tasteless advertising, again, don't buy their products.

    Let me ask it straight forward...

    Should an advertisement that objectifies women be banned? If so, why.

  9. Should an advertisement that objectifies women be banned?

    Where did anyone suggest that?

    As to your other questions, it seems pretty straightforward. Someone commented on my blog recommending this purportedly grassroots campaign to promote beer drinking among women and when I went there, it was just a disingenuous ad campaign from Coors. So I wrote about it. That's what I do--write about things in the beer world that inspire me to comment.

    It's a blog. I offer all kinds of opinions. You and I disagree on almost everything involving public policy. Fair enough. But in this case, I think you're just looking for something to harp on, when in fact it looks like you don't really have a problem with me pointing out the actual nature of the Coors Bittersweet Partnership. This is that strange bedfellows moment, Ralph. Uncomfortable, I know, but not to worry--I'll write about the evils of smoking soon enough to restore the (dis)order between us.

  10. Where did anyone suggest that?

    I'm asking. This is how people get to understand each others positions by asking questions regarding the beliefs. Expand the problem set and compare answers. Although you didn't answer the question I'd like to point out. My answer is no of course. ;)

    I do enjoy contrasting points of view, the spice of life. Understanding our environment so to speak. That and I'm killing time before my 60 min hop addition. Which I thought I had more Hallertauer than I had, oh well, 30/70 Hallertauer and Tettnang for bittering. I digress.

    I find people that have similar views on public policy as you an interesting breed. I like to study them when I have the chance.

    Smoking, sweet! I like that hot button one. I bet we agree more than you think on policy issues, just not the ones the involve personal freedoms.

  11. "That's what I do--write about things in the beer world that inspire me to comment."

    "I think you're just looking for something to harp on.."

    Oh, Jeff... If you have a right to blog your opinion to the world, Ralph has a right to publicly harp, schwak or question things in the beer world that he likes or dislikes too.

    You comment, He comments. You question, he questions.

    As for the Doctor.... He doesn't really give a S*IT about the bug you have your ass in regard to Coors, women and advertising. ;-}

    Carry on, don't mind me....

  12. Hi Jeff, thanks for the response. Apologies for not disclosing upfront that BitterSweet is an initiative initially set up by Molson Coors. I was genuinely interested in your blog and wanted to respond as the issues you talk about are similar issues that we’re tackling with BitterSweet in the UK.

    Although Molson Coors is behind the initiative, it’s not an advertising or marketing campaign to push a specific product. It was set up to deal with a specifically UK problem around reasons beer sales among UK women are so low and the barriers and myths that stop women drinking beer here (which are supported by our independent research). BitterSweet is managed by a predominantly female team, most of whom have worked in the beer industry for many years so have also experienced these issues first-hand.

  13. The African American and Hispanic markets together make up nearly one-third of the population in the U.S. and 21 percent of all U.S. males ages 21-34 are Hispanic.

    Ah, statistics. 33% of the population is black and/or Hispanic*, and 21% of males aged 21-34 are Hispanic.

    So, let's try those deductive reasoning math skills-- what percentage of women aged 21-34 are Hispanic?

    Your friendly neighborhood beer-drinking Chicana,
    Mary Sue

    *yes, you can be both, it's tricky for quantifiable analysis and people who think in binary, but just trust me on this.

  14. Although Molson Coors is behind the initiative, it’s not an advertising or marketing campaign to push a specific product.

    Gill, we can't be naive. The site hawks Coors products, and Coors products alone. I find it hard to believe Coors would be behind this campaign if it didn't have the opportunity to direct all these new customers to its products or that it will continue to dump money into the campaign if those new customers fail to materialize.