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marketing News

Sales of (mostly terrible) beer down

According to advertising trade mag Marketing Week, sales of the top beer brands are down 5 per cent up to April 2008.

The biggest drops are in sales of Kronenbourg 1664, Stella Artois, Carlsberg Export and Grolsch. Sales of John Smith’s Extra Smooth and Carlsberg (ordinary) are up.

Their say that the current ‘drink-aware climate’ and England’s absence from the European Championship are the main reasons.

The first certainly sounds plausible to us. People we know seem to be much happier ordering a shandy or a ‘weak beer’ than they were a couple of years ago.

And, of course, there’s been a huge defection to cider from beer, as witnessed by booming sales of Strongbow.

Categories
marketing

Marketing beer to geeks

The latest issue of WiredWired magazine has several full page advertisements for upmarket beer in its current issue, including Michelob’s range of fancy beers (maerzen, wheat, pale ale and porter).

This, coupled with their recent coverage of the hop shortage, suggests that the marketing men, at least, perceive a link between geekiness and the appreciation of beers other than American light lagers.

The Michelob ad is interesting. It talks about the particular malts used (with pictures) and explains how they’re responsible for the colour and flavour of the beer. In other words, they announce that beer, just like computers, music, TV, film and collecting plastic action figures, is something you can be geeky about.

They’re not advertising to beer geeks — they’re trying to create new ones loyal to their brand.

Categories
Generalisations about beer culture News opinion

Wetherspoons suffer from smoking ban?

Marketing magazine has a good piece this week on the fortunes of the Wetherspoons pub chain. Their sales have dropped 13 per cent to £28.5m in the six months to the end of January, apparently.

They’re blaming the smoking ban and rising energy costs — some of those barn-like pubs are costly to heat, it seems. The article also suggests that the smoking ban has hit them because poorer people smoke more, and are more likely to drink at Wetherspoons because it’s cheap.

Marketing mag then goes on to ask to brand experts to advise on how the chain can turn around its fortunes. Mike Taylor of Monkey Communications hits the nail on the head:

Wetherspoon is now a vernacular for a certain type of pub. Definitely not a bad pub, but maybe not one for “people like me”.

Dave Clements of McCann Erickson is a bit less astute in his comments:

[Wetherspoons] championing of real ale may warrant an award, but it has hardly increased footfall. It may have attracted a mid-market audience, but it is exactly those people who can’t imagine enjoying a pint without a cigarette.

Eh!? That’s certainly not true in our experience. In fact, like your wine snobs, real ale types tend to be rightly sniffy about anything that interferes with their appreciation of the flavour of the beer.

Maybe we’re being hopeful, but surely the downturn in Wetherspoons fortunes has something to do with another story in the same issue of the magazine — Tesco Finest (the supermarket’s “premium brand”) has just become the UK’s biggest grocery brand with sales of 1.2bn. People — even people without wads of cash — are getting a little but fussier these days.

Categories
design

Beer Glasses

SAHM’s tradition gobletWilson’s comment on the beer glass we used for the photo of our blackberry wheat beer yesterday got me thinking: is everyone else as weird about beer glasses as us?

We’ve got boxes of different glasses stacked around the house. The idea is that we’ve got the right style of glass, in the right size, for almost anything that gets chucked at us. In a lot of cases, we’ve even got glasses with the right branding.

I think, as a bare minimum, you need:

  1. Two half-pint stem glasses — for sharing 500ml bottles.
  2. A straight-sided pint glass.
  3. A “goblet” for Belgian beer.
  4. A tall wheat beer glass.
  5. A half-litre “krug” for drinking German stuff.
  6. A litre stein for drinking German stuff in the summer…

Optional extras would be a tiny US pint glass; a koelsch glass; a tall “pils” flute… I could go on.

Of course, like a lot of people, I have a favourite glass that I use more than all the others. Mine’s a nice, sturdy, straight-sided pint glass from the George Inn, Middlezoy, Somerset, which honours the Queen’s Golden Jubilee with an inscription in Comic Sans. Ha.

So, who else is fussy about their glassware? And if so, do you know where I can get a Marston’s glass…?

Categories
breweries marketing News

Big brewers supporting small ones

News from the “Morning Advertiser” that Charles Wells pub company are to open a speciality beer pub in their home town of Bedford made me think about the big brewery business model.

In a period when small producers and local produce are cool, and big brands just aren’t, more and more of those big brands will want a piece of the smaller ones. In the past, they’d have taken over smaller brands, incorporated them, and eventually done away with them altogether. Now, it makes more sense to keep them intact, but at arms length.

McDonalds aren’t hiding the fact that they own a share of Pret a Manger, the posh high street sandwich chain (itself now also a big brand). They just don’t publicise it much. It’s insurance for them in case the bottom falls out of the little brown beef pattie market, and also protects them from accusations of being low-class, or peddlers of only unhealthy food. They’re hedging their bets.

Charles Wells Pub Company, a part of the growing Wells and Youngs’ empire, are helping the parent company to cover itself here, too. People can’t accuse it of crushing competition, or reducing variety if it keeps opening pubs selling boutique beers – beers, of course, which don’t directly challenge it in the marketplace.

Market forces might be working out in the favour of the British drinker: if customers want choice and the products of smaller breweries, the big breweries are going to get in on the act and help out.