Miller Lite: Carving Out a Segement

Miller BoxersWhen Miller Lite was introduced to the nation in 1975 it wasn’t exactly the sure bet that one might have thought it should be. For three decades the trend in American beer had been towards lighter bodied, lighter flavored beer. As the nationally distributing brewers of these beers gained dominance and regional brewers withered and died the American beer scene seemed destined to be ruled by lightly flavored beer. This plus a new interest in dieting and exercise seemed to have set the perfect stage for the heretofore created dieter’s beer niche.

But the recipe for Miller Lite came to the company through less than promising circumstances. In the late 1960s a couple of brewers had tried market their versions of light beer; none of which were successful. Among them was Meister Brau, a Chicago based conglomeration of Midwestern breweries making their bid for survival against the growing national brands, who introduced the Lite beer brand in 1967. Despite aggressive and well-targetted marketing the idea of a dieter’s beer just couldn’t catch hold. In 1972, after 5 years of less than meritorious performance, the brand was sold to Miller.

The seventies were tumultuous years for Miller. The decade opened with Phillip Morris purchasing the brewer in 1970. The losing brewery seemed like a potential headache but for John Murphy who was put in charge. Murphy’s background, naturally, was in cigarettes and he seemed to know little about beer except how to drink copious amounts of it. But after turningMiller Lite Tee Shirt sales for Miller High Life around with the “Miller time” campaign, the marketing genius set his sights on making Miller Lite a success.

Despite skepticism and down right derision from all segments of the beer business, Murphy’s gamble paid off. Ads featuring macho celebrities and sports figures flooded the nation’s tvs and convinced a drinking public that this lower-calorie beer was no girlie beer. These were followed by the fantastically successful “less filling; tastes great” ads that established Miller Lite’s dominance in the light beer segment’s early years.

I relied on Ambitious Brew by Maureen Ogle for some of the facts in this post.

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