Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Up or Downmarket? Michelob make up your mind

is getting a makeover, but A-B still doesn't get it.

The brew, long dubbed as "a beer for connoisseurs," has been made with imported hops, a high percentage of two-row barley malt and adjuncts like rice and corn. Those adjuncts will be gone from the new recipes. A new embossed teardrop bottle is intended to give Michelob a "worth more" look as it tries to stay in the super premium niche among imports and specialty brews. A-B had adopted the microbrew practice of creating seasonal beers—such as Michelob Seasonal All Malt Lager in 2004-05—and sample cases. Yet the redo is not intended to align Michelob with craft beers, say wholesalers. Rather the strategy is to bring the brand closer to its original roots and target, which is older consumers. Product literature describes the target as 28 to 54-year-old drinkers who might be drawn to a beer with "more robust malty body and distinctive hop character.


First of all, it's awesome that this venerable American brew is returning to an all-malt formula, losing the corn and rice adjuncts. I think this will really give the brewers a chance to demonstrate high quality in what's traditionally perceived as a low-qual market. We'll definitely be trying this one when it launches.

But their brand concept, as reported in the story, is schizophrenic. It's great that the beer is being aligned as super-premium, with appropreate media support, packaging, and the other trappings of sophistication, but how the hell can you do that in 2007 without aligning the product with craft beers? Isn't it because of craft beers that these changes in production and marketing become necessary in the first place?

Michelob's brand managers will say they want to compete with import Eurolagers, not domestic micros. Fine, I'll give them that. But then they shouldn't count on "bringing the brand closer to its original roots and target." Michelob is an American beer, positioned higher up the chain than Busch, Stroh's, or Bud, but still available in $5 pitchers at the local watering hole. It's not a beer people drink to savor. They quench with it. They chug it. They bounce ping-pong balls into it, and that's just the way it is.

Michelob is making a mistake with a two-pronged branding strategy. Either consolidate the brand as super-premium, pushing the reversion to all-malt brewing, or go retro and appreal to the more ironically minded.

Shooting for both is likely to get them neither.

-Mark

5 comments:

'Don' Cialini said...

Anyone who reads your blogs and column's knows that you are a shill for alleged "good" beer - usually from Europe and whatever craft beer company you are jocking at the moment. The thing is, in America, for the majority of Americans; Bud, Miller, Michelob and even Canadian imports like Labatt's (god knows why) and Molson constitute "good" beer for us. American's have different tastes than our friends across the pond. Just look at the different cuisines of each nationality. My fat ass would starve if I had to spend a considerable amount of time in Germany. I'd probably be thirsty as a bitch too, because I just don't like German Beer. Crack on me if you must, but I like my Mic Ultra, Bud Light, Coors Light etc...and no, I'm not in a frat. Its just a matter of taste. I prefer a Garden Salad to Sauerkraut and I prefer a Miller High Life to German Hefeweizen. Hate to say it, but most of the country is like that. This is why your fruity, full, robust, extra dense with the malts and hops beers are not big here. They have a great niche in the craft beer companies and that's where they should stay. If a beer like a "good" German Hefeweizen was going to make it on a large scale in America, the big breweries would have already been capitalizing on it. Eurobeer is most likely destined to end up like Soccer in the states. Known by a lot, however enjoyed by only a few. Perhaps its you and not A-B who doesn't get it.

Mark said...

Dude, I like European beers. I like craft beers, but I've also made it clear that I enjoy Macro American stuff as well. How many times have I sat next to you at a ball game with a big cup of Genny or Bud? I could choose Rohrbach or one of the plastic European import bottles, but I choose the "bad" beer. Because I like it and it fits the mood.

Americans' tastes are as broad as their experiences. Otherwise, imported beer wouldn't sell here at all and the craft beer movement never would have happened.

I'm not knocking Michelob for what it is, I'm just saying they should choose a brand strategy and follow it instead of waffling between two markets on different ends of the scale.

'Don' Cialini said...

Sure I see you throw back Genny's and Bud's at the ballgame, but I don't see Grolsh on the menu either.

And American tastes are as broad as their experiences sure, however our tastes are not what say the Euro's are and vice versa. I might have no use for beer other than my watered down light American beers, but I will try other shit. For the most part, I just don't find much of it as enjoyable as I do say Bud Light.

As for brand strategy, its all about making money, so I can't fault them for trying to get into a different market.

KevBrews said...

I agree with the first comment that most Americans drink macrobrews, but I wonder how much of that is a result of marketing and poor available options during formative drinking years. I drank a lot of crappy beer when I was younger, but mostly because I had no idea that good beer existed.

And for the record, not all craft brews are "fruity, full, robust, extra dense with the malts and hops beers"--the beauty of the American brewing scene is its diversity--there's a beer out there for everyone.

Sparkle Anne said...

dude, its been, like, a week since you have posted. what gives?