Differentiation. It’s one of the keys to good branding. Branding and marketing professionals have been beating that drum since the dawn of communication. But being “Different” in simple separation from the competition isn’t enough. Differentiation needs to add value. Otherwise what good does it do for the consumer?

Take for instance the recent “change” MillerCoors Brewing has made to their packaging. We’ve all seen the “Vortex Bottles” and the new big-mouth aluminum bottles. Sure that’s different, but the product is the same, watered down, tasteless swill. There hasn’t been any value proposition or improvement in the actual product. So unless the marketers and MillerCoors Brewing think their consumers are completely ignorant, belly-scratching mouth-breathers, there won’t be a return on the repackaging investment. Even msnMoney has called this effort for more brand awareness a “gimmick.”

“and MillerCoors fight it out. They are boosting their advertising budgets and even trying gimmicks like a “Vortex Bottle” that aerates the beer as it pours.”

Does their target audience really care about aeration of their beer? I could put even money that their target audience doesn’t even aerate their lawns!

Gimmicks don’t work.

To give you a little insight on how the beer market has changed, take a look at another article from msnMoney. In brief, it says that while beer sales over the past year have plummeted by 10% the “Craft Beer” market (think Sam Adams) has seen an uptick of 2.2%.


Beers like those that Sam Adams brews offer taste, quality and variety focused on the micro-brew-lovers palate not a feeble innovation to the “dump-it-down-your-throat faster” need… Their marketing sticks to their quality brewing process and attention to the needs of their discerning customers. No gimmicks… just great brand marketing.

It comes down to adding a value proposition to their differentiation. Sure, MillerCoors brews wheat beer and has special “flavors” like Miller Chill, but it hasn’t improved overall sales or brand awareness. In this writer’s opinion, it’s just watered down (further) their brand and left a bad taste in consumers mouths (pun intended).

So, Pull up a bar stool and join the conversation. What can commodity beers like the MillerCoors products and the Anheuser-Busch line do to compete with the Sam Adams and “Craft Beer” makers? We’d love to hear what you have to say. Maybe MillerCoors is listening in?

What say you?

Until next time…

Keep Cooking (great value branding)!
Andrew B. Clark
The Brand Chef

  1. Interesting post, although, what if MillerCoors strategy is to get you to drink it faster so you drink more of it? Then, it’s pretty smart, no? At some point, even crappy beer makers have to realize they’re serving glorified horse piss.

    It comes as no surprise that the astute taste of the Brand Chef doesn’t waste valuable fridge shelf space for the likes of MillerCoors. Also safe to assume that you don’t drink Bud Light, The Beast, Natty Light or anything else from AB a.k.a. the Walmart of Beers.

    The only thing MillerCoors has going for them is brand awareness and cheap prices. It’s a college, frat guy oriented beer. And you know college kids, right? They’re too young to know what’s good, they’re just happy to be drinking and even happier to be drinking a lot of it. Pretty sure that MillerCoors is marketing their product with that in mind.

    • Hey Josh!

      I’m certain that’s their goal, but why hide it in the gimmickry? Why not just say “We’ve watered it down so you can drink it faster and buy more!” 🙂

      I used to be a Miller Lite drinker, but as I matured, so did my tastes in beer. That said, if MillerCoors made a “good tasting” beer (not even great), I wouldn’t be afraid of purchasing it at a premium. Sam Adams (not saying they’re the best, just great branding) isn’t THAT much more expensive than Miller Lite, but I’d rather have quality over saving a buck on a 6-pack.

      Keep Cooking! (burp)
      Andrew B. Clark
      The Brand Chef

  2. I have a friend in southern Iowa who truly believes the vortex bottle enhances the beer. Miller lite was already his beer of choice and the vortex only re-enforced his brand loyalty despite my efforts to tell him otherwise.

    Maybe that’s what Miller was going for, which works in southern Iowa (a place I think fits Miller’s target audience). Enter any bar down there and the usual domestics are the cheapest, order anything “fancy” you’ll end up paying extra for it. In that scenario, the vortex bottle seems to be the better choice.

  3. Highly thought-provoking stuff, Brand Chef. Myriad companies are guilty of this business model: improve (repackage) the marketing, not the product.

    In terms of the beer market, I gotta agree with Fleming’s analysis, namely that makers of Light/Lite beer have no incentive to create a better beer, for they are predominately targeting unsophisticated beer drinkers who value quantity over quality. The micro-breweries aren’t catering to this market, but rather, are targeting the mature pallets that crave a more flavorful and rewarding beer.

    Personally, I navigate the entire market depending on what the situation requires. For instance, if I’m gathering with friends on the weekend to grill out and watch some football, I’m indubitably going to purchase a less-filling light beer that enables me to drink more. But I could care less what bottle/can it comes in. I’m thinking quantity, and thus, I’m considering price (sound the Natty Bells). In lieu of marketing a new bottle, perhaps MillerCoors would be wise to market a cheaper beer.

    Conversely, if my wife and I intend to enjoy a relaxing evening at home, I’m undoubtedly going to purchase a 6-pack of full-flavor beer that we can each savor 2 or 3 of. In this case, I’m not bringing home Miller Wheat. Not a chance. Give me a Boulevard Wheat – a beer delicately and passionately brewed by folks who love beer, not by corporate beer-mongers who are hoping to enter an expanding market.

  4. All of the marketing ‘innovation’ in the Big Beer segment is in the packaging- plastic bottles, cans with wide mouths, labels that change color when cold, can with ‘special’ linings to protect the beer, home kegs, etc, etc, etc.

    I’m surprised that Big Beer hasn’t broken out more faux-micro brands like Blue Moon. The beer is better, but Big Beer keeps the revenue. Go where the market is going.

    There is probably a business model for a big brewer with dozens of small boutique labels under their umbrella- each made and marketed as if it was a stand-alone brand.

    • Great point, Peter!

      Is it enough to cater to the “power-drinkers” or should they try to tap into the market that’s moving (Craft Beer’s 2.2% growth) that’s hurting their bottom line?

      I think they’ve “attempted” with the wheat brew and others, but I don’t think they’re really trying NOR are concerned. As you said, “Big Beer keeps the revenue.” Even at lower price points a commodity will be profitable if you out-sell.

      Thanks for the insight!

  5. Sorry Chef…I really don’t care what the bottle looks like…as long as I can open it….quickly. In addition…I LOVE my Bud Light…wouldn’t have it any other way. Guess I’m stuck re-living my college days. So be it.


  6. I’m such a self admitted beer snob. Craft beers and small local brews for me. Unless Miller goes through a campaign like the recent Domino’s one. I would never drink a beer from them again. I mention the Domino’s campaign because they motivated me to go out and try one of their pizza’s again. It had been years since I had previously. Did it make me a loyal customer… no. But at least it motivated me to try it again.

  7. Tthanks for the post! Here is my perspective: (posted this on the BrandChef too!)

    What can Coors do to compete with Sam Adams? Nothing. It’s like saying how can Chevy compete with Ferrari. I don’t believe Coors is even in the same league, nor does it want to be.
    Coors is aimed at an audience who just wants a beer, and doesn’t care as much about flavor. This audience tends to respond to changes in packaging design. On the outside it appears as though the product has been enhanced, when in reality, it is the same nasty product.
    Recently Kimberly-Clark’s Kotex used the new U gimmick*. New package design (it’s nifty), a “clicking” gimmick and bright colors were all it took to increase sales by double digits † not only in the first quarter, but the second as well.? (from anonymous sources, I have heard the actual function of these is just awful!)
    Obviously, gimmicks can START consumer spending habits, but it is up to the brand at that point to deliver. If they cannot, this “gimmick” will do nothing but hurt them long term.
    Back to Coors. How are they competing with Sam Adams? Coors Brewing Company is competing with their other brands including Blue Moon, Killians, etc.
    Gimmicks in and of themselves can’t sustain business, but they CAN increase awareness and bring in new eyeballs. To meet the consumer’s expectation (or exceed it) will keep the business.

    * http://investor.kimberly-clark.com/releasedetail.cfm?ReleaseID=452171
    ? http://investor.kimberly-clark.com/releasedetail.cfm?ReleaseID=491216