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I wrote yesterday about how beer taps should be used as brand instruments to build fealty, affinity and loyalty.  There was a time when the beer brand was more important than the brewer. As evidenced by my post yesterday, it seems the brewer portfolio has become more important than the individual beer brand – especially in this craft brewing led market.

Anheuser-Busch/InBev, MillerCoors and the other beer holding companies are sharpening their investments by buying craft brewers.  It seems variety is the spice of the balance sheet these days. When I look at a craft brewer, as both a drinker and brander, I ask about the flagship beer.  The one that sets the tone for the brewer.  Typically that’s the label with the highest gross sales. For BluePoint Brewing is it’s Toasted Lager. For Highland Brewing, Gaelic Ale. For Goose Island, it’s namesake Goose IPA. There has to be an alpha brand. And I start from there.

Smart brewery marketers want consumers to order a “Toasted Lager,” “Gaelic Ale” or “Goose IPA.”  They don’t want them to order the mother ship.  As craft brewers get more sophisticated, they will hire brand managers for each label. And then it’s on.



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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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Miller High Life’s Common Sense Platform campaign will be interesting to follow. There are no inherent product qualities used in the work other than value. And if you go too heavy on the value message it can imply poor quality, which in the beer category means taste.
The Common Sense campaign follows a Miller delivery guy around while he puts forth his views on what constitutes common sense: fair price, sensible product, no fru-fru. Though the work is entertaining, it lacks brand ballast. Leveraging politics in a campaign year seems like a sensible tactic but Miller High Life has been so underfunded and invisible, I’m not sure this is a sustainable adverting idea for them. Sales are up 1%, but that is more the economy than the idea.
Were it my brand I’d create a uniquely today advertising idea that tied living the high life to the sharp, quenching taste of that amber brew seen through that beautiful, sweaty clear bottle and leave the politics to the politicians. 
P.S. If you’d like to hear the world’s greatest beer campaign idea, for Miller Genuine Draft, shoot me an email at

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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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