miller lite

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I write a good deal about pent-up demand. It is a marketer’s best friend.  When Miller Lite was launched no one had ever successfully marketed a low calorie beer. Ergo there was no demand. The market had to be educated as to the value of light beer.  Once done, demand was there.  No pent-up demand.

Marketing and brand planners should always look for pent-up demand in the market. When it’s obvious, E.g., cheaper taxi rides (Uber), better tasting hamburger (Shake Shack), life is easy. When a product value is not obvious, finding pend-up demand is a chore.  For Excel Commercial Maintenance, a building cleaning service whose customers care most about low price, a brand strategy “The navy seals of commercial maintenance” met pent-up demand for fast, fastidious and proactive workers. Something purchasers rarely talked about.

Not every product or service offers a marketing with a deep undying demand for a feature or function. But if you don’t dig deep you are not doing your planning job.



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Brand Names

Naming is perhaps the most interesting part of branding; especially so, for products that are new, unique and first-mover in a category. Naming that communicates a product’s Is-Does is optimal.  It explains what a product Is and what it Does.  The first light beer, Miller Lite, is a beer and does provide a lighter product profile.

Brand names with marks, called logos, are able to convey more than just a brand because a picture and/or type treatment offer additional information.

When a product or service is more complicated, as is often the case in technology or healthcare, the brand name and logo may not be able to convey a full Is-Does. So a tagline offers a fuller opportunity to complete the Is-Does.  There are even some cases when all three don’t fully explain — so one completes the story with boiler plate. Boiler plate is found on PR releases and on web sites under the About tab.

Finally, the best brand names of all offer more than what a brand is and what it does, they offer a little bit of poetry.  A smidgen of humanity and tone.  A smile. 

Brands are empty vessels into which we pour meaning. Start off with a name that conveys good information and meaning and the pour becomes a little easier. Peace!


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So there’s an article in last week’s Ad Age comparing the branding ideas of Coors Light (Cold refreshment) to Miller Light (Great taste). Great Taste, as you know, is half of the long time promise, “taste’s great, less filling.” For a while now I’ve been calling on the advertisers in this category to highlight and dimensionalize product quality and “hammer it home.” Coors Light has, Miller Lite hasn’t.


That said, I’ve smirked at the cold train and the frosty positioning of Coors Light. Serve it cold? What kind of a differentiator is that? What I didn’t know was that cold was actually tied to something called cold filtration — a fact lost amongst all the frozen tundra and trains. For all their faults though, the DraftFCB ads delivered 3 consecutive years of share growth. 


Miller Lite, on the other hand, did nothing to promote any memorable product taste advantage.  Until today! Someone smart over at Miller Lite (and, hopefully, BBH) has identified “triple hopping” as evidence of MillerLite’s great taste. Applause, applause. No really. Applause, applause. If you’ve ever held hops in you hand you’ll know what I mean. 


But if some doofus creates launch ads featuring a track and field athlete I may just take a sharp object to myself. Like a cork screw. 

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MillerCoors, the soon-to-be combined brewer that will compete with Anheuser Busch for share of the domestic beer market, has some hard marketing decisions ahead with Miller Lite. A friend of mine who brews beer at home once told me Miller Genuine Draft is the best tasting pasteurized beer on the market. He told me this while we had some grain a toastin’ on the stove. I believed him. Sometimes, where you hear something is more important than what you hear.  Taste is not an underrated quality in beer and especially so when it comes to light beer.
Here’s my advice regarding Miller Lite, the beer that broke open the light category with its “Tastes Great. Less Filling.” campaign. Taste is the key strategic point and Y&R Chicago pounded it a couple of years ago with “I can’t taste my beer.” If MillerCoors and current agency BBH can create advertising that “proves” the taste, they will win.  Don’t do a taste tests, just find what in the brewing process creates the taste better and make that the idea. 

How about something like “it’s the toast.”


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A challenge.

Hi, my name is Alex Bogusky. I’m a guest columnist here with What’s the idea. My hard-edged insights are going to turn heads and make everyone smarter communicators. Responsible for the Burger King king, the Mini Cooper launch and Miller Lite’s misunderstood but effective Man Laws campaign, I’ve been advertising’s most visible spokesperson for the past 5 years.  
Surprise! It’s not Alex, it’s me, Steve. I had you going, didn’t I? 
This is the tactic Ford is taking with their new “Swap My Ride” campaign. The campaign positions Ford by allowing new owners of other car brands, e.g., Toyota, Nissan, to drive Fords with the Ford identity concealed – under the guise of market research. Low and behold, the tricked consumers like the Ford automobile and say so in TV commercials. 
OMG. This is challenger brand stuff. It says to consumers, “we’re just as good” as our competition. The problem with this approach is it puts competitors into the equation. It uses them as context.  Ford needs to tell its own story.  
If Ford continues to act like a challenger brand, it will remain a challenger brand. They are beginning to exhibit some vision and nice car designs. How about looking within? THAT would be a bold move.

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Good call.

Oh, I hope not to end up being one of those self-aggrandizing bloggers who pat themselves on the back for being right all the time.  I find that so cumbersome. But I had to smile this morning upon learning that Crispin Porter Bogusky resigned the Miller account. A few days ago I indelicately suggested that Alex Bogusky fire Miller, which he and Chuck Porter did. Congratulations.  Good call.    
What caused the rift? Miller Lite’s decision to create and produce an ad in-house. I saw that ad last night and it had all the markings of a client-produced spot: it was an “awards” ad. Clients’ love awards ads. They love ads about themselves. Agencies love ads about consumers.
I don’t for a minute believe Miller Lite will remain in-house, it won’t. They are too smart for that. And, the “unfurl the award banner” spot may actually sell a few extra kegs of beer near term. But next agency beware. Miller needs a big strategic idea, but more importantly they need to believe in it.  

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…agencies need to worry about marketer generated content. Check out this Ad Age quote from the CMO of Miller Randy Ransom regarding its new in-house effort for Miller Lite:
“We are taking a ‘hard right turn’ back to the core essence of Miller Lite, which has always been about differentiating Miller Lite from competitors as a better beer.  The new ads (in-house) demonstrate our ability to move with speed and conviction. And we like the flexibility that these simple formats provide to quickly customize our messaging for a variety of mediums.” 

The implication in Mr. Ransom’s quote is that agency’s cannot move with speed and conviction, are not flexible, and can’t quickly customize messages to a variety of mediums. That’s a problem. It’s a bigger problem than the work that got Miller Lite into this mess, which I’m sure was collaborative.
(Oh, and Alex Bogusky, strap on a pair and fire these bozos.)

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