Brand Extensions We Have Known

In the nearly five years we’ve been blogging, we’ve seen big brewers launch all kinds of spin-offs, usually with TV advertising and much public-relations brouhaha. Here are a few of our favourites and updates on what became of them.

Stella Artois Black (2010-present)

The big problem with this one is that it isn’t bloody black. Budvar Dark (still with us…) is dark; Guinness Red (see below) was red (kinda); Stella Black was… golden, just like normal Stella. In addition, it suffered the fate of most lager brand extensions: being sold on an aesthetic and an ‘experience’ which the real world British pub couldn’t or wouldn’t deliver, as Pete Brown memorably recorded here. Still with us, technically, although we don’t recall seeing it in the wild.

Artois Bock (2005-2008) and Eiken Artois (2008)

Two attempts to create a strong variant of Stella Artois. Why didn’t these take off? Because they were too posh and expensive for Special Brew drinkers and too tainted by the wife-beater brand for the la-di-dah crowd. Which imaginary niche were they aiming at? The alky wanting to treat himself on a special occasion?

Peeterman Artois (2007-2008)

See Artois Black, above: fancy glass, fancy serving ritual and cod-French marketing undermined by the actual experience of drinking it in pubs. Stella 4% (basically the same product) seems to be doing OK, though. Perhaps it was just the introduction of this dubious sounding Peeterman feller that did for it? Given that everyone calls it “Stella”, it seems odd to try to extend the “Artois” bit of the brand.

Kronenbourg Blanc (2006-?)

Not such a bad idea — launch a beer to steal a bit of Hoegaarden’s market using an established brand name — but something about the execution didn’t work. For a start, no-one defines themselves as a Kronenbourg drinker — it’s just what Stella drinkers go for when pushed, or if they’re actually in France — so the ‘familiar brand’ isn’t worth much. Secondly, it just didn’t taste enough like Hoegaarden, being sweeter and too overtly citrusy. Why didn’t they just outright clone HG? Someone (a ‘normal’) brought a four pack of this to a party at our house, drank one, pulled a face, and left it. We eventually threw out the remaining bottles last year.

Foster’s Twist (2006-2009?)

Foster’s is sold on the basis of its Australianness, which supposedly means it’s relaxed, laid-back, informal, a bit cheeky, and generally conforms to national stereotypes. Corona, meanwhile, is sold as quintissentially Mexican — relaxed, laid-back, informal, good at dancing, slightly skunked, and with a bit of lime sticking out of it. Foster’s, wanting a piece of that market, made an advert (see above) which showed Australians were also good at dancing, got some clear bottles, and put some ‘citrus hops’ in the beer. Lime lovers, nonplussed by the mention of hops and the absence of actual fruit peel, kept drinking Corona; Foster’s lovers kept drinking Foster’s… as you were, nothing to see here.

Guinness Red (2007)

For years, you hammer home this message: Guinness=black, Guinness=black, Guinness=black… then suddenly, you launch a red version. Confusing and contrary, but at least it wasn’t Guinness Blanc. (Hey, that’s not a bad idea…) It wasn’t really red, either — just a bit lighter in colour. Sort of brown, really, but they couldn’t call it that. Once again, it did nothing to tempt new customers, and gave those who already drank Guinness no reason to switch. Did not get beyond ‘test marketing’ in the UK.

Carling C2 (2006-?)

This created a bit of a buzz. When everyone else was going for a 4% variant (Becks Vier being the most successful, as far as we can tell), Carling upped the ante (or downed it?) by introducing a 2% beer. The only time we saw anyone try to order one, he was mocked and derided until he agreed to have a normal Carling. If only real blokes were as tolerant as those square-jawed, skinny, nicely tailored lads they had in the adverts.

We haven’t mentioned every Ice, Cold, Super Cold, Extra Cold and Extra Icy. It’s too early to know what will become of Animée but, suffice to say, we find it’s very existence baffling. Apparently, Foster’s Lukewarm is on the way next year, along with Stella Green. (It’s yellow.)

28 thoughts on “Brand Extensions We Have Known”

  1. Animee was last being sold at about half price in a Nicholsons pub in Oxford when I last spotted it. I’m guessing that sales aren’t going particularly well…

  2. I’d forgotten about all of them – shows how successful they were.

    I’m never entirely sure who the big breweries are trying to appeal to with their diversifications: most ‘lager’ and Guinness drinkers I know are very unexperimental and tend to stay faithful to what they’ve always drunk; people who have a more eclectic (some might say, pretentious) palate are highly unlikely to take what they would deem to me a step down in quality and taste. I think spending just an hour 2 in a Wetherspoons would prove to be a far more worthwhile piece of market research than whatever it is they actually undertake.

  3. Strange how people still insist on making beers ‘for women’ isn’t it? It just isn’t needed, yet still remains that elusive dream for many brewers. I think I saw a billboard for Corona or Sol ‘with lime flavouring’ the other day; taking out the real reason why people who drink those beers choose to; a cheeky lime in the top.

    1. Is this based on your extensive experience as a woman Leigh ;o)

      Every other consumer good treats men and women differently – food, snacks, clothes, gaming, soft drinks, confectionery – the list is endless and it’s crazy that beer wouldn’t do the same if it’s serious about being the nation’s favourite drink. It’s also odd that the majority of people that don’t think there’s a need for it are men……

      Is Animee THE solution, no. But it’s not claiming to be, it’s part of the solution, and it’s a massive step forward. I’m sure all the women Bailey knows do drink beer but that is the exception, over 70% of women never drink beer. If we want women to drink beer (and we should) then we need new beers just as much as better glassware, packaging and service in pubs.

      1. We’ve read quite a few blog posts and articles from women who aren’t convinced either…

        1. Me too, and that’s ok – no beer can be all things to all people. Go look at http://www.facebook.com/animeebeer and it’s full of women that love it and have drunk beer for the first time as a result.

          Many will go back to what they normally drink. But some will see beer differently as a result and then try more beers – that is good news and something, if we love beer, we should celebrate

  4. When Fosters Twist came out there was a viral voucher doing the rounds for a free 4 pack from Threshers. On a sunny Friday after work, myself and two housemates picked a 4 pack up each and proceeded to the local park.

    Not even the sunshine and scantily clad ladies could make this beer (which was cold out of the fridge) taste good. This is what toilet duck would taste like if it came out of the post-mix.

    Three of the four bottles were ‘retired’ to the garage and not seen again until I moved last year. I’m afraid to say, they hadn’t matured with age.

  5. Stella Black is still very much alive in the pricier bars of London. Usually retails at more than 4 quid a pint!

  6. Guinness Black Lager is a new one that was trialled in Northern Ireland and apparently went down well. It may actually catch on.

    For some reason I have a feint bell ringing saying I liked Eiken Artois, although don’t remember much about the flavour…was it Oaked?

    1. It was oak-aged. Didn’t try it, but Artois Bock was also kind of OK, in that “double malt beer” European way.

    2. Guinness Black Lager is heading into its third summer and still doesn’t seem to have graduated beyond trial. It was extended to the US last year, but still no sign of it elsewhere.

  7. I actually quite enjoyed peterman artois the one time i tried it, ditto for kronenbourg, which I will have a pint of from time to time.

  8. Animee is down to 1.50 a pack in my Tescos but even that is not going to entice me to try it. To be fair to it though, the only places I saw it mentioned was on beer blogs, I don’t think they did a proper campaign for it as far as I’m aware.

    Stella Black I have seen in Nicholsons pubs but again I haven’t tried it andwhen it is served it’s in a bog standard Stella goblet.

    Kronenbourg, I actually quite like. On a hot summers day it is rather refreshing. :)

  9. Guinness ‘Draught’Bitter was another one, back in about 1990. Widgetised and came in a green tin. Tasted like beer-flavoured milkshake.

  10. Probably the only type of brand extension that is really likely to work is a stronger, “more of the same”, version of the basic product.

  11. Landells — think you’re on to something re: flawed research. If people don’t like beer then a beer, however much disguised as an alcopop, or rose wine, or cider, isn’t going to convert them.

    Leigh — all the women I know either (a) drink beer anyway; (b) like wine or spirits and are quite happy drinking them in any context; or (c) are getting into beer thanks to stronger, more flavourful and (frankly) classier beers. Post to follow on a related point…

    (Anyone who says Boak and my Mum are the only women I know is lying, by the way.)

  12. Stella 4% differs from Peeterman in the absence of Coriander.

    Not all brand extension fail. “Export” has been a successful for some cooking lagers in the UK.

    “Light” has been successful in the US and now has more of the market than the original brands, though never been big in Europe.

    For keg ales “smooth” appears a success.

    For many keg beers “super chilled” or “extra cold” has been successful in the on trade.

    The cost of failure for these for a large company is small, the proceeds of success greater, hence the innovations.

  13. A few years ago, a number of breweries over here were very wary that the low carb fad would extend to beer, so they all tried to launch low calorie versions of their already quite miserable lagers. I’m happy to report they sank without a trace.

  14. Spotted Stella Black in Spitalfields last week and was sorely tempted to tick, but didn’t.

    I think you’re unfair on Kronenbourg Blanc: I thought they made a decent fist of it and was sorry that the S&N split meant it’s no longer distributed in Ireland.

    And Guinness Blanc was done. It got beyond the test phase but faltered and was put through an embarrassing relaunch as a bottled beer before finally disappearing, just as wheat beers started to become common.

  15. “If we want women to drink beer (and we should)” Is that just PR talk for Molson Coors again? Some of my female friends drink beer, some don’t, it’s THEIR choice. I’m not going to say that the ones that don’t drink beer should.
    The only people that seem to say this are desperately trying to claw money into a sadly failing industry. The same industry that creates these ridiculous brand extensions.

  16. Years ago Carlsberg did a beer that actually tasted, erm, christ I don’t know if I should admit to this, alright? It was called Duckstein. I also get the impression they put it in casks for a Wetherspoons festival – URL (but not link) here :
    http://www.carlsberggroup.com/brands/Pages/Duckstein.aspx

    Anyone remember it or understand what Carlsberg were aiming for? I didn’t remember it having their name on either to be honest.

  17. Kirsty! Hey! I’m just generalising, of course. Here’s another sweeping statement; most females that I know who like beer – from my mother and grandmother to wife and friends – seem to lean towards darker/stronger beers – from my mother craving Mackieson’s stout when pregnant with me, to a female colleague of mine havng a serious soft spot for Duvel and Chimay Red. yet people assume female = light? Totally agree with the assertations around service, attitude, glassware etc. As a man, even i can see that *some* pubs just aren’t that friendly to a group of female drinkers.
    *some* pubs.

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