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5 Ideas From A Global Journey Through Beer Marketing

It is hard not to enjoy beer marketing. Even if you are not a marketer, this industry always offers creative advertising (particularly on TV) that is fun to watch and spends lots of money doing it. Every year at the Super Bowl, a good number of the Top 10 ads come from beer companies. In other venues beyond sports, beer advertising often promises good times, great parties and generally being able to escape from your daily life into a world of fun, travel and festivities.

When it comes to marketing strategy, however, it often seems like beer companies focus on being entertaining at the expense of being strategic. With campaigns that seem to change almost monthly and taglines that rarely last for more than a football season, it is easy to dismiss beer marketing as irresponsible spending to promote a high margin product. Is there more to beer advertising than 30 second eye candy and girls in bikinis? Here are a few popular marketing campaigns for beer – along with their corresponding marketing strategy that may yield some surprising lessons …

1. Be Unique (Red Stripe Beer)

If you have ever had a Red Stripe beer from Jamaica, you know that it has a very unique bottle shape, shorter and stubbier than most others. The bottle sets the beer apart more than anything else, and this fact is brilliantly parodied in this ad featuring their central spokesperson – the Jamaican guy who loves nothing more than celebrating what beer can do with his trademark expression of Jamaican joy: "Hooray Beer!"

2. Demonstrate Loyalty (Bud Light)

The ad for Bud Light below follows the model this beer company has focused on for nearly every Super Bowl and football season – forget about your product features and focus on the simple message that guys will do almost anything for your beer. The strategy which seems buried in most of their ads is the unwavering loyalty that the guys in their ads have for Bud Light. They will build houses out of it, jump out of planes, and even walk around naked for a day just to get more of it. It is easy to argue that the name of the beer involved is entirely forgettable, but the ads stand out for being entertaining.

3. Create Associations (Estrella Damm)

A popular ad for European beer Estrella Damm – this campaign features a few ads which tell the story where the beer plays a supporting role and one of the tagline reads "Good times never end when you have something to remind you of them." Another ad features a growing relationship between two fellow travellers. While the taglines don't exactly roll off the tongue, the entire campaign creates stories that associate the beer with the common memory of moments like a short term romance on a backpacking trip through Europe that many of their target audience will remember nostalgically, and one that many people won't be able to help sharing.

4. Foster Aspirations (Dos Equis)

Probably the most popular campaign of the list, this inspired marketing from Dos Equis creates a persona for the Most Interesting Man In The World who, by his own admission, "doesn't always drink beer, but when he does he prefers Dos Equis." The image of this man is who every guy wants to grow up to be, and works because it places Dos Equis in a typically uncontested space as the choice for a more mature and refined guy versus an infantile male trying to relive lost days of keg stands and beer pong from college. That and irresistible lines like "he lives vicariously through himself" help position Dos Equis as the more aspirational choice in beers.

5. Reinforce Perceptions (Heineken)

The thing that European beers have always used to promote themselves against other brands is the sense that they are a more upscale and respectable choice when you go to a bar or similarly public place. Heineken's recent campaign takes this message and replays it with the powerful tagline – "give yourself a good name." The ads feature guys making bold decisions (like drinking with the scary bosses' daughter) and congratulating them on their choice. It helps reinforce the message that what beer you choose says something important about who you are, so choose well.

  • http://raulcolon.net Raul Colon

    Great post. I enjoyed most of them the Extrella beer lost my attention at the first minute of the ad.

    I was trying to figure who the Dos Equis Guy was the other day and now I find his add on your post.

    The Bud Light one is great for examples on how to create a need for charities and for a product going both ways.

    Now the Jamaican beer was funny straight to the Point and like you said as an ex bartender I can see how it really stands out.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I hope you had a good one while you where on vacation.

    best regards,
    Raul

  • http://malibumentor.com Loren Woirhaye

    With beer we now have 1000s of small brands jostling for shelf space and market share. Many are struggling to grow or even survive. I buy locally made beer myself and I’m fascinated by the industry.

    That said, when you get down to it, selling beer is a matter of creating somewhat arbitrary preference in buyers. Years ago we ran an informal test in my family and discovered that after a couple of beers nobody could tell the difference between a “good” beer and a “cheap” beer reliably. This only works if the beers are in the same general family of taste but it tells you something: preference is in the mind of the drinker and the actual flavor of the product is only part of what contributes to it.

    Several months ago I watched the documentary “BEER WARS”. I recommend it highly. It exposes the predatory, anti-competitive practices of the Budweiser company but it’s also interesting on many other levels.

  • http://www.searchperspective.com/2010/04/27/pabst-blue-ribbon-viral-marketing-success/ Cory Grassell

    I would add another beer to the list. Only this beer won’t be found via TV commercials, full-page ads, Internet banners, etc. That’s because Pabst Blue Ribbon has abandoned most forms of advertising. Its journey has gone off the beaten path to reach consumers in local markets through local sponsorships: street festivals, concerts, etc. Its messaging has been adopted by trendsetters, who now regard the old-fashioned beer as part of their hipster culture. These PBR adopters are now spreading the messaging virally, which is what PBR is all about.

  • http://www.designagency.co.uk/services/creative-advertising Lili-D

    Interesting post. Living in the UK I haven’t seen most of these commercials, but they’re definitely in line with our beer advertising here. The most recent ‘successful’ campaign has been Heineken’s screaming men in a walk-in fridge ad – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S1ZZreXEqSY

    It’s great the way it turns the ‘machismo’ image of beer on its head, and definitely caused a reaction – which of course is great.

    Funnily enough though, ‘real ales’ – which have little or no online/tv presence, are back in vogue and starting to do pretty well…

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  • http://www.jaycalvertmd.com/ CAPlastic Surgeon

    I have a friend in college for marketing. I’ll link her to this. These are really good tips. Nice example with the beer commercial. I hadn’t actually seen that one. Thank you.