Breweries Unite to “Revive Brand Beer”

Here’s a head-scratcher for you, folks. According to Advertising Age, leading big brewery marketers will be meeting in New York City to discuss ways to reverse the fortunes of their main labels, what Ad Age calls “brand beer.”

It seems that the penny has finally dropped — or at least glimmered in the distance — for the big brewers and they have decided that perhaps a combined effort is necessary to slow or even reverse the recent downward fortunes of big beer. The meeting will be held under the auspices of the Beer Institute, which is a lobbying/umbrella group for the brewing industry in the U.S. (The BI differs from the Brewers Association, or BA, in that it includes, some may say is steered by, big brewers and importers like Anheuser-Busch InBev, MillerCoors and Heineken USA., while the BA is craft breweries only.)

According to Ad Age, new BI chairman, MillerCoors ceo Tom Long, hopes “to bring energy and ideas to the many programs and plans that tell the story about beer being the right choice for consumers and retailers alike.” How this might happen, if it might happen, is still unknown.

One thing I am fairly certain of, however, is that at no point during the meetings will these collected marketers say, “You know, maybe if we stopped producing daft ads and relying on gimmicks like lime-flavoured beer or swirling bottle necks and instead concentrated on what the stuff tastes like, people would return to drinking our products.”

In fact, I’m more inclined to agree with former A-B exec Bob Lachky, who is quoted at the end of the Ad Age article expressing his scepticism of any agreement even emerging from these talks. He should know, having engineered the now-defunct “Here’s to Beer” program, which promoted beer as an entity rather than as the collected brands of his company, only to see the industry desert it en masse.

8 Replies to “Breweries Unite to “Revive Brand Beer””

  1. Why hope that? I would love a world of a wide variety mass produced complex tasty beer that is modestly priced. It’s very close in nearby NNY already in that I can get Six Point, Ommegang and Saranac for a modest price along side increasingly well made cheap faux-craft like Shocktop. Would it be so bad if InBevABMolbatCoorsHeinie made the best dubbel?

  2. Actually at its new Six Pints Beer Academy in Toronto (which formerly housed Duggan’s and Denison’s), Molson Coors is doing just that by making an exemplary Belgian Brown as they call it, a letter-perfect dubbel style IMO. Their India pale ale is excellent too.

    I think again the market will segment ultimately between light beer, price brands, standard lager if well made (e.g. the Heineken, Carlsberg and Beck’s type of beer, all-malt) and craft style beer. Each big brewer will need to decide in which area to focus and perhaps some will be able to cover more than one base.


  3. I think the transition is under way. When you look at the long history of brewing, the wholesale dominance by a single style is totally unprecedented. It’s even more bizarre that it happened during the greatest period of market freedom the world has ever known. It was unsustainable, and it is only very slowly and with great resistance that executives at the big companies will come to see that there’s money in variety.

    Keith Villa started brewing craft beer for Coors and now Blue Moon is the best selling ale in the US. That brand alone sells well over a million barrels a year. (Even by the standards of the bigs, nothing to sniff at.) Villa didn’t backward-engineer it, though; he brewed a standard witbier and found a market halfway between Bud and craft beer drinkers (discovering, indeed, a market made of people who never drank either one of those). It helped to have the muscle of Coors to put it on supermarket shelves around the country, but it sold because it was a different, interesting, and pretty tasty product. That’s the future of beer, not Bud 49 with Lemon Zest in a octagonal cylinder.

  4. I think this is almost a world-wide problem – wine and bottled water cutting into the sales of beer. It would be nice if the industrial brewers made better beer, but, somehow, I doubt that will be the solution they see.

  5. I suspect that the problems of Big Beer and Big Auto are shared: reliance on marketing alone to keep and expand sales and market share.
    Would Bud sell nearly as much if they stopped advertising it? Would the Ford F-150 lead sales figures if they didn’t cram so many ads down our optic nerves? Personally, I’ve got to say no.
    If the product is quality, like so many craft beers, word-of-mouth advertising will increase the sales figures, assuming there is sufficient product and distribution. Marketing will do so to a point, but a bad product will not sell as well next to a good one. The decline in Big Beer and increase in Craft Beer show that point more eloquently than I can.

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