Archive for the ‘beer’ category

2014 Called and Said, “Super Job, Radio Shack!”

February 3rd, 2014

Most of the people attending the Super Bowl party I was at last night agreed that the ads were even worse than the game itself, but this shouldn’t be surprising.  Too often the decision to blow millions on a Super Bowl commercial is driven by corporate ego rather than a legitimate concern about the company’s bottom line.

To be successful, a Super Bowl ad has to be (a) entertaining and (b) smart, which I define as “making people remember and want to buy–or at least check out–the product or service being advertised.”

Sadly, most advertisers and their agencies focus solely on being entertaining, and yet despite this focus, they usually come up short.  So the odds of a Super Bowl ad–or any ad–being both entertaining and smart are about as good as the odds of Richard Sherman writing a best-selling book on etiquette.

Last night’s clear exception was this Radio Shack ad.  Anyone who’s ever visited a Radio Shack could instantly understand the point of the ad when the Radio Shack clerk says, “The ’80s called.  They want their store back.”  The rest of the spot gave viewers the fun of identifying a plethora of ’80s icons, all the while reinforcing the message that Radio Shack stores have been dramatically updated.  And I found it very refreshing that Radio Shack is able to laugh at itself and its dated decor; that kind of candor and self-awareness makes me think “They get it” and that they’ve probably fully confronted and fixed the problem.

Contrast this with an even more entertaining ad–the “Puppy Love” ad run by Budweiser.  True, the puppy was extremely cute and the ad was extremely well produced.  However, the ad wasn’t extremely well conceived.  Why?  Because it did nothing to make you crave a Budweiser–or any kind of beer.  It probably made you smile and maybe made you cry, but did it make you say, “Man, I really want a Bud”?  I doubt it.

The only way this ad will have any tangible effect on sales is if beer drinkers decide to reward Budweiser for the touching entertainment.  But there are three reason why this, in my view, is highly unlikely.  First of all, I suspect a lot of people who liked the commercial don’t even know it was for Budweiser.  (I didn’t see a lot of logos, or bottles pouring tasty-looking suds.)  Secondly, this morning’s polls show that the ad appeals much more to women than men, and women aren’t big beer drinkers–especially not big Budweiser drinkers.  Finally, most Bud drinkers I know have a pretty macho self-image, and I don’t see many of them opting to buy more Bud because of a cute puppy commercial.

The difference between these two commercials can be summed up by the fact that today they’re typically being referred to as “The Radio Shack commercial’ and “the puppy commercial.”  Which of the two do you think is more likely to move the sales needle?

Thus, I’m pretty sure Radio Shack got much more bang for its four million bucks (for a 30-second spot) than Budweiser got for its eight million smackers (for a one-minute spot).

On the other hand, I’ll bet puppy sales are through the roof today!

Stella Artois “Chalice Factory” Fails to Clear the Bar

April 30th, 2012

I consider Stella Artois to be one of the better and more flavorful lagers, as well as one of the best-marketed beers in the world.  But its “Chalice Factoryonline promotion fell flat for me.

I love it when a brand leverages a distinctive asset, which is exactly what Stella has done with the chalice-shaped glass in its print and TV advertising for years.  So the idea of taking consumers to an online “Chalice Factory” and giving them a chance to win their own chalice is an intriguing one.  The problem is that as I went through the interactive video, I became increasingly confident that I was going to win a chalice.  Why the high expectations?  Perhaps because the video was more time-consuming than I’d expected, leading me to think, “There’s no way they’re going to make me endure this whole experience and then not reward me for my time!”  So when I was told, “Sorry, but we’re out of chalices,” I felt both disappointed and betrayed.

Don’t get me wrong; the interactive video wasn’t bad; it’s just that it wasn’t great, and great is what I’ve come to expect from the marketing folks at Stella Artois.  But this time, they let me down on two counts:  they failed to meet my expectations from an entertainment standpoint, and they didn’t give me the prize they’d convinced me–intentionally or not–that I was about to win.

Just as with great athletes, the bar is higher for great marketers.  And when they fail to clear the bar, it’s a bigger deal than it is for lesser players.  This “Chalice Factory” promotion was a fairly bold gamble on Stella’s part–the marketing equivalent of stepping up to take the game-winning shot.  In this case, however, Stella Artois missed the shot at the buzzer, and in the process missed a shot at some great marketing buzz.

Carlsberg Video Raises the Bar

October 31st, 2011

For years I’ve felt that some of the planet’s poorest marketers were breweries.  But while several beer brands continue to pummel us with exceptionally weak efforts (I’m talking about you, Miller Lite), brands such as Dos Equis, Corona, Stella Artois and Blue Moon have been serving up smart, strategic, entertaining advertising campaigns.

The latest example of out-of-the-can thinking is this viral video from Carlsberg beer.  As of the time of this posting, it had received almost 8 million viewings, and for good reason.  Like many great movies, this very cleverly conceived and produced video makes us feel a little uneasy in order to engage us deeply and make us empathize with its story.  And the ending makes us feel good about everyone in the video, as well as about the brand that has just entertained us so royally.  What’s more, it shows that brand in use, and makes us wish we were using it ourselves.

Maybe I’m a little biased by the fact that one of my favorite memories is having taking a 10:00 am tour of the Carlsberg brewery in Copenhagen on a break between graduating from business school and starting my career. What made the tour extra special is that I took it with the then-75-year-old brother of Jerry Siegel, the creator of Superman. Still, I feel I can objectively state that this video is, well, super.

Mr. Siegel, this Carlsberg’s for you!

Miller Lite Campaign Lite on Humor…and Intelligence

April 27th, 2011


It’s hard to believe that Miller Lite was once supported by one of the most humorous and effective advertising campaigns in history.  Sadly, that was the 1970s, and since then the quality of this brand’s advertising has plummeted along with its share of the light beer market.

Their latest campaign–based on a “Liteguard Training” theme–might represent a new low for the brand.  I defy you to watch this and find anything that makes you smile, let alone laugh out loud.

More important, the campaign is as devoid of  logic as it is humor.  As with prior ads like “Skinny Jeans”, the campaign suggests that other light beer drinkers don’t care about taste, and that they need to “man up” by drinking Miller Lite.  This is absurd on two levels.  First, no man–even a light beer drinker–would admit to not caring about taste.  Second, no one who has ever tasted Miller Lite would describe it as having a lot of flavor.  Does it have a teeny bit more than some other light beers?  Perhaps.  But enough more to base a marketing strategy on?  Hardly.

I’m a big fan of humor in advertising if the humor is used to reinforce a smart marketing strategy.  I’d love to see Miller Lite’s agency give that a shot.

While they’re at it, I’d also love to see them use humor that is, you know, humorous.

Risqué Bud Light Lime Ad Too Risky

February 7th, 2010

I have mixed emotions about Bud Light Lime’s internet-only a “in the can” commercial. Privately telling an off-color joke to a friend is one thing, but publicly making implicit references to anal sex, even if it’s “just” on the internet, is something else. From a business standpoint, it’s both risqué and risky. Moreover, the spot repeats the same play on words ten times; however funny it is the first one or two times, it’s not nearly as funny the ninth or tenth time.

The reason I have mixed emotions is that four friends found it interesting enough to forward to me, and I suspect that there are many people–probably millions– who will find the ad to be quite entertaining. So the question is, do the positive points Bud Light Lime scores with people who like the ad outweigh the points they lose among people who find it offensive?

I often tell my clients that their ads and other communications efforts don’t need to appeal to everyone, and that communications designed to not turn anyone off usually also fail to turn anyone on. Often the answer to “Do we dare do this?” comes down to two things: how deeply are certain people likely to be offended, and are a lot of those people likely to be in the target audience? On the first point, I suspect that those who dislike the Bud Light Lime ad will really dislike it; on the second point, I would argue that Bud Light Lime’s target audience is broad enough that it will contain a lot of those people.

A true niche product that’s cultivating a maverick, rebel image has little to lose–and maybe even much to gain–by offending those who aren’t in its tiny target audience. But Bud Light Lime is targeting a mainstream crowd, many of whom I think will find this ad to be offensive. And keep in mind that this has implications not only for the brand equity of Bud Light lime, but of every brand in the Budweiser portfolio.

So while I’ll give Anheuser Busch owner InBev credit for taking a risk in this increasingly risk-averse world of ours, I don’t think it was a smart risk. In other words, I think this ad should have been canned.

What do you think?

Blue Moon’s “Artfully Crafted” Is, Well, Artfully Crafted

January 10th, 2010

For the past few years, one of my favorite beers has been Blue Moon, a Belgian-style, unfiltered wheat beer brewed by Molson Coors Brewing in Golden, Colorado. If I had to come up with a two-word description of its flavor, it would be “distinctively refreshing.” And that’s also a fitting description for Blue Moon’s new TV commercial, “Artfully Crafted”.

This commercial is literally a work of art, one of the most visually creative and pleasing spots I’ve seen in years. Its brilliance lies in the fact that it focuses on the special ingredients that go into the beer–so much so, in fact, that half-way through the commercial I was almost literally savoring this brew’s unique flavor. This commercial could only work for Blue Moon; if you put any other beer in its place, it just wouldn’t ring true.

Not only is this the perfect ad for the product, the ad appeared on the perfect show: Anthony Bourdain’s exceptional “No Reservations” on the Travel Channel. The show already had my wife and me making plans for what we were going to have for dinner tonight (Indian food), and once “Artfully Crafted” aired, I also knew what beverage I’d be choosing to accompany that dinner.

In fact, as I’m typing this, one question enters my mind: Is 3:30 too early for dinner?

Drinkability: Just Wrong

December 22nd, 2009

I must be getting lazy, as I’m picking on Bud Light for a second straight day. But if Anheuser Busch is going to continue to air Bud Light’s ineffectual “Drinkability” campaign, they must be lazier than I am.

Have you heard anyone talk about this campaign? As with Bud Light’s “Tailgate-Tested” campaign, “Drinkability” seems to have zero word-of-mouth buzz. Speaking of which, have you ever heard a beer drinker use the term “drinkability”? Let’s face it; this term was coined by Bud Light’s ad agency as a euphemism for “utter lack of flavor.”

The latest execution from this campaign shows a young couple about to leave home for a formal event. First the wife attempts to pin a boutonnière on her husband’s lapel, but it doesn’t take. (Super on screen: “Too light.”) Then she attaches the boutonnière with six or seven shots from a staple gun. (Super on screen: “Too heavy.”) We’re then told–rather randomly and illogically–about Bud Light’s “drinkability.” (Super on screen: “Just right.”)

Not only is none of this particularly funny, the staple gun scene comes across as downright sadistic. To make matters worse, the husband has a wispy mustache and sideburns that are straight out of a 1970s porn flick.

There’s a word that comes to mind when I think of the Anheuser Busch execs who let their ad agency convince them that this stuff would make for effective advertising: “Gullibility.”

Tailgate-Tested, 14th Floor-Rejected

December 21st, 2009

I’ve hesitated to rant about Bud Light’s sorry “Tailgate-Tested” ad campaign simply because criticizing it was such easy pickings. However, after seeing the latest execution from this exceptionally uninspired collection, I decided I had to get my feelings off my chest and onto my keyboard.

For starters, the entire campaign can be accused of poor taste by virtue of being a knock-off of commercials featuring the late Billy Mays. When Mr. Mays died unexpectedly several months ago, I thought Anheuser Busch would take the campaign off the air out of respect for the person the ads were trying to exploit, but sadly–for us as well as for Anheuser Busch–such was not the case.

The latest ad, “3-in-1 Condiment Gun”, takes bad taste to a new low within the first five seconds by having its unfunny spokesman ask, “Ever have trouble putting on a condiment?” (There’s nothing like condom humor when you’re trying to impress an audience!)

The rest of the commercial showcases a new invention that combines catsup, mustard and relish. (I’ll pause here until you stop laughing and slapping your knee.) From the demonstration of the device to the reaction of the studio audience, there is nothing in this commercial that made me smile, let alone laugh.

For years I’ve been critical of Bud Light ads for being funny but saying absolutely nothing to make you want to buy the beer. I love ads that wrap humor or entertainment around a compelling selling proposition, but Bud Light’s ads were always funny for the sake of being funny. (Case in point: “Beer Theft.”) In short, they were great entertainment but lousy marketing. Now, however, their ads ar.en’t even funny. In fact, I have yet to hear anyone anywhere make even one reference to the “Tailgate-Tested” ads.

The 3-in-1 Condiment Gun might have been “tailgate-tested and tailgate-approved,” but it’s hard to imagine that this ad campaign has passed any audience test with flying colors. And if it did, my advice to Anheuser Busch would be to find a new testing service.

Another Stellar Ad from Stella Artois

November 29th, 2009

When an ad is so good that both your wife and your best friend tell you to write a blog post about it, you know it’s something special. The ad in question is a visual stunner from Stella Artois that’s currently running–as far as I can tell–only in movie theaters.

Virtually everything in this exceptionally elegant commercial is white, with two exceptions: the gorgeous gold of the beer, and the brilliant red of the Stella Artois label. The ad accomplishes three things that ads in general, and beer ads in particular, rarely do: the product looks amazingly appetizing; the brand name is inescapable; and the brand image is beautifully enhanced.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find an online link for the ad, which means you might have to go to a theater to see it. The good news is that based on the caliber of the movies coming out of Hollywood these days, the Stella ad will likely be much more entertaining and captivating than whatever flick you see. Here’s hoping you give the ad a “thumb’s up”–or, better yet, a “14th Floor”!

Bud Light and Miller Lite: Advertising Lightweights?

August 15th, 2009

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.