Marketing Mentality

Here’s what happens when a marketer tries to understand the beer business. In a recent article in Forbes Jack Trout tries to get his head around the US beer business and why the biggest selling brands have been stagnant over the last few years. They’re offering too many different kinds of beers, he explains.

He’s a blowhard, I reply.

In fact he’s a self-contradictory blowhard. Within his own article he contradicts his own premise. He points out that big beer companies with their variously branded lagers are loosing market share to craft beer including their own faux crafts like Blue Moon and Leinenkugel. But variety is one of the strengths craft beer. The biggest craft brewer, the Boston Beer Company, has a huge number of different Sam Adams beers available and that hasn’t hurt their sales.

I could also point to the continued success of wine despite the fact that the products produced by almost any given winery are many and often take some study to understand. And how about the evolution of vodka over the last few years? You can buy vodka flavored with almost every imaginable fruit and somehow consumers are able deal with that. But I’m not here to argue about marketing.

Granted, the various versions of Miller, Bud and Coors are essentially the same beer with different labels but Trout doesn’t make this clear. In fact I’m not sure that he even realizes this. He seems to think that all beer is the same and so, his logic goes, why should any brewer have more than one product?

Choice is saving beer from this sea of the same that seemed likely to define beer as recently as 15 years ago. US beer drinkers are finally discovering the variety of beer and the pleasures of it. They are voting with their dollars for beer that tastes of more than fizzy, slightly sweet water.

So, Mr. Trout, why don’t you go out and actually try some of those “wacky American beers” before you try to evangelize your marketing gospel to them? You might find some truths that are not available in your statistics tables and marketing textbooks.

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