What’s Wrong with Beer Marketing?

From David- Founder of Sommbeer:

I want to thank Lynn for contributing to this post.  I value her opinions even when they fail to agree with mine.

What do you think about the current marketing of beer?

David: The marketing for craft beer is almost non-existent.  Even the local brew pubs seem inept in this regard.  As for the big brewers, I think they are a mess too.  I have to turn the channel if my kids are in the room.

Lynn: The macro players continue to market to men with sexy women in the ads, rugged outdoor scenes and talking about “beers with your buddies”. The other aspect of their marketing is very gimmicky – such as cans that turn blue when cold. There isn’t much craft beer marketing but I have seen some product placement in TV shows and movies. Just get Wil Wheaton in the cast and he’ll make sure there isn’t any macro crap on the set.

Laser sights on the beer

Laser sights on the beer

David: Having worked in the world of consumer packaging I can tell you marketing is the art of manipulation.  The macro brewers pull on shallow primal triggers ie. sex.  They also alter packaging to pull in women.  The best example of this is the Bud Platinum bottle, bright blue and designed to pull in women.  Craft beer doesn’t have the financial muscle and has matured to the point requiring ads.  I also want to believe they don’t need it.



Lynn: Marketing for any business or commodity had the goal of targeting to a specific audience. It’s pretty easy to see who the beer companies are marketing to but what they still fail to understand is that women like beer (and not the bright blue Bud Platinum bottle). Since women comprise 50% of the population, wouldn’t it make sense to have gender neutral marketing? Don’t market a beer specific to women, as you’ll likely get this wrong and put forth a fruity, light – look, it’s like a cooler! beer. Respect that women enjoy beer and form the proper advertising campaign around it. It’s probably time you stopped dumbing it down to the men too.

What are your thought on the packaging of beer?

David: In regards to marketing via packaging, I’m repelled by some of the new stuff.  New brewers sometimes have a misguided notion that they have to be “edgy”.  They make vulgar labels to prove it.  Some of them I wouldn’t let my kids see.  It might have been hip when I was in college, now it just seems to be trying too hard.  I don’t buy good beer with offensive packaging.


Lynn: As for packaging, craft brewers are the ones pushing the envelope with weird, fun and racy labels. I wonder if the guys at the brewery – and yes, it’s usually guys – run the labels past the women in their lives first to get their opinion. Most labels are fine but some depict sexy women on the bottles. It doesn’t offend me but I do wonder why they choose to do this. When was the last time you saw a buff guy on a label? Yeah, never. I admit that I’m drawn to any an eye-catching label, especially if I’m not familiar with the beer, but boobs on the bottle won’t likely get my attention.

if only
if only

How would you market beer to women?

Lynn: I wouldn’t. I don’t see a need to advertise differently to men and women. If you remove the stereotype sexy marketing and stick to talking about your beer, why do you need to advertise differently to each gender? Tell me what your beer smells and tastes like and keep the bikinis to swimsuit ads.

David: Hmmmmm, well now ya got me thinking.  In Detroit we market cars to women and lots of trucks to men.  The formula works.  Target marketing, in this case based on gender, isn’t bad in fact it makes sense.  My point of agreement is that it shouldn’t be vulgar.  Bikini ads are stupid – agreed.

David: To me good beer marketing isn’t obvious at all.  Good craft breweries have to maintain the proper image for example.  Have to act like they don’t need advertising.  If they do, it smells like desperation and looks like more garbage from Coors, Miller etc…  Look at the ads for Sam Adams!  What a sellout, their beer quality went out the window with each ad dollar spent.  The analogy to good beer marketing – stand at the bar like you’re not interested in anybody.  Makes you look super attractive and it will attract “customers” like bees to honey.images (1)


Lynn: Most craft breweries don’t have the money to market outside of their local area and in Vancouver, this is primarily done through events they attend. Their signage at the event and the people pouring their beer become their marketing and face of the company. When this is done to appeal to both genders, they win. I don’t think that the macro beer market will gain many female beer drinkers but craft has an amazing opportunity to pull in this demographic. Focus on what the beer tastes like, that it’s made locally and let new craft beer drinkers (male and female) sample them. And for certain, don’t make them feel like a noob because they don’t understand the fermentation process…

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8 thoughts on “What’s Wrong with Beer Marketing?”

  1. A craft beer ad that captures the fun and comraderie of a beer fest would be one way to appeal to both men and women. Also, anything funny and smart. Doesn’t even need to feature beer much.

  2. P.s. I think blue fingernails are a sign you’re, you know, um…dead?
    just saying. thanks again for this super post!

  3. You had me at “Wil Wheaton…”
    No, seriously this is a great, thought provoking and yet entertaining conversation that we will be having more and more as “craft beer” goes more mainstream (as I anticipate that it will in the next 5-10). I helped start up a now very successful micro in Ann Arbor and study the market carefully now as a consultant to others. (NOTE my product placement in RoboCop 3! Yes, I said that. No, seriously go look at the newest version. That was the Brewery I Helped Found.)

    We all still use the tried and true (a.k.a. “FREE”) methods of social networking but more and more money is being tossed at things like Major Event Sponsorship and even, in the case of Dark Horse in my Great Beer State and those goofballs at Brew Dog, finagling a “realty TV show” (which, I will brag, was in my hot little hands until the Brewery I helped Found decided they didn’t want that “kind” of publicity). I will continue to enjoy the deep pocketed ad efforts of the boys at SAB and AB InBev (and really liked the tour of the original AB plant in St. Louis once I had the amazing beerz at Urban Chestnut and Perennial) not to mention to super cleverness of our Euro brethren the Diageo Bros. But I anticipate that the way craft brewers will see the light of big ticket advertising will be along the lines of the way they craft their beers: “off the beaten path.” I love your blogginess. Keep up the Great Work!

  4. The beer/food is good…they don’t need that sort of marketing.
    Whenever one of my “old school” male friends starts running his mouth about women, I like to remind him of his two daughters: would he want THEM called “bitch” by someone driving by, or paid less for doing the same job, etc. It is interesting how perspectives change.
    My dad never brought any of that kind of garbage in the house either (well, he drank Schlitz and such)…your kiddos will appreciate it one day!

  5. Years ago, my now ex-husband and I went to the BOB in Grand Rapids. Each beer had a “hot” woman pictured on the tap–dyed white blonde hair for the white, blonde for the blonde, red haired for the amber and such. There were no brunettes. Both the bartender and I were brunette, and so we got to talking about that. Then we moved to the idea of selling your beer in such a way. Neither of us was impressed.

    Would I want “hot” men on the taps? No. My life is not so pathetic that I need to see a naked man or a shirtless man in order to get through my day.

    The typical answer in this discussion–and I’m glad you both avoided it–is to say “sex sells”. My response to that is–no, women’s sexuality and women being portrayed in (often disgusting) sexual ways “sells”. It is demeaning to both genders.

    1. Naked men wouldn’t work for me either. Truth is I didn’t think much about how demeaning it is until I started raising daughters. I see the world differently now. The sexists ads are gross. The vulgar beer bottles never enter my house. I can’t afford for my kids to see me buying and drinking that rubbish.

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