July 19, 2013

Why beer advertising fails: Anchored Creativity™, Part 2

Think about beer advertising.

You’ve seen a mind-numbing parade of beer advertising, year after year after year. Some campaigns were memorable, most were forgettable, and forgotten. The forgotten ones flopped, of course. Even some of the memorable ones failed to move another keg, can or bottle out of the warehouse. Every year new assaults are introduced with fanfares, followed by silence when the market share needle stays stock still.

The central issue is this: effective beer brand advertising is damned difficult.
The category is crowded*, brand loyalties are sticky**, the best prospects are hard to reach***, everything you can say about beer has been said, 57 times over****, and Anchored Creativity™ in the category is rare*****.anchored creativity

*The field is jam-packed. Yes, two brewers control 94% of the market. Consider all their brands, however, plus odd imports, plus the mushrooming number of craft beers (6% and climbing) – there are thousands of identities looking for their beer advertising to go beyond awareness-building, to deliver a purchase-intention injection. (In vein?).

**But brand loyalties are persistent. We did research some years back when we were representing some beer and distilled spirits clients, and a fascinating nugget from a tracking study stuck with me. Of those young men who had an established a brand loyalty at 21, about 50% would still be loyal at age 29. Half! It’s a big challenge to get a committed 25-year-old to switch brands.

***So it pays handsomely to capture them young, which carries with it the problem of media vehicles to reachnthe bullseye of the audience (males, age 21 to 21 1/8). Outside of Ultimate Fighting, there are few media choices that efficiently reach the testosterone-poisoned. There’s also the, um, awkwardness of not being allowed to target people below LDA (legal drinking age, usually 21 in the US). Everyone pictured in beer advertising on tv, for example, is required to look at least 25. (Not a problem for The Most Interesting Man in the World.)

****What can you say about beer? There’s the water, barley, hops, cute brewmaster, coldness, macho-nicknamed bar call, can design, bikini-clad beach buddies who admire anyone wise enough to choose just the right brand, or stylishly-clad bar buddies who admire anyone wise enough to choose just the right brand, etc., etc. Rinse and repeat. And repeat.

*****Anchored Creativity™ is in very short supply. With a few notable exceptions, such as the Dos Equis campaign which actually did increase market share, the category is littered with retreads.

Strategic creative breakthroughs are waiting to be born for beer advertising. It’s just plain lazy to create the 912th hot-babe-won-over-by-delivery-of-the-Amazing-Correct-Beer. Especially for agencies who congratulate themselves on clutter-cutting…