When you have a commodity product that tries to appeal to virtually everyone, it’s hard to create compelling advertising. Exhibits A and B: the latest Bud Light and Miller Lite ads, which make about as much of an impression on the brain as their beers do on the palate.
Both of these beers’ nondescript, low-flavor profiles are designed not to generate raving fans, but to avoid turning anyone off. Unfortunately, when you avoid the risk of turning anyone off, you also default the opportunity to turn anyone on.
While their new ad campaigns aren’t impressive, at least it’s some consolation that the two brands are taking two different approaches. For several months now, Bud Light has been trying impress us with the beer’s “drinkability,” a euphemism for “goes down–and tastes pretty much like–water.” Unfortunately, the ads suffer from two fatal problems. First, unlike prior Bud Light campaigns, the ads aren’t particularly entertaining. Second, and more important, the fact that the product is drinkable is not exactly a revelation or, for that matter, even interesting. I mean, are there really any beer drinkers out there complaining that light beers have too darned much flavor and don’t go down easily enough?
Miller Lite, on the other hand, has suddenly decided to reveal that their beer is “triple hops brewed,” and always has been. Huh? Perhaps this is supposed to make viewers think, “Gee, I guess Miller Lite has much more flavor than was apparent to my taste buds. Silly me!” A new light beer that truly has more flavor than the current offerings might be news, but an old, traditional light beer suddenly talking about its brewing process is boring at best and weird at worst.
In my view, the smartest advertiser among the major light beer brands is Coors Light, which has consistently positioned itself as the most refreshing light beer and the one that tastes best ice cold. Its story goes well beyond “drinkability”, and the brand’s mountain heritage adds credibility to the “ice cold” angle. Moreover, when I see a Coors Light ad, it makes me want one–especially when it’s hot outside. On the other hand, when I see a recent Bud Light or Miller Lite ad, it makes me want to change the channel. (As I’ve blogged previously, while past Bud Light campaigns were very humorous, I’ve never felt that they were effective at giving viewers a reason to buy the product. True, it’s by far the number one-selling light beer, but I attribute this to the combined power of a huge media budget and the Anheuser-Busch distribution system rather than the quality of its advertising.)
To be clear, I’m not saying that Coors Light tastes signifcantly better than Bud Light or Miller Lite. However, if I’m going to have a light beer, I’m looking for refreshment more than flavor, and Coors Light strikes me as being just a little more refreshing than the other two brands. Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that Coors Light’s sales trend has been far more positive than its competitors’ for the past several years.
In defense of the Bud Light and Miller Lite ad agencies, boring products don’t easily lend themselves to provocative advertising. Still, Coors Light’s agency has not let this handicap get in its way, which is why I consider it to be the heavyweight of light beer advertisers.