Watering it down while making it cool: An old FMCG challenge

He really just don’t careOne of the big, old FMCG successes stateside is the introduction of ‘Lite’ beer. Can’t remember when it happened but it was genius – extend your market by effectively increasing your margin (just add water etc) and find a new way to sell a product as old as piss. Frankly, I am of the school that non-soft drinks should taste of something more than air but hey, guess I’m just that little bit different. Lite beer has had an awfully hard time penetrating the UK – but I was amazed to see that not only is it here again, a 13% chunk of our Antipodean brothers dig the stuff as well. Maybe the brewers have seen the success of wrong drinks like WKD et al and have realised that just as single malts and anything behind the bar with flavour are retreating to niches there is room for stuff that makes Fosters look like Leffe. I’ve been seeing a big outdoor campaign for Carling C2 that has real insight to it as unlike the typical American “fills you up but won’t slow you down” taglines attached to this insult to drinkers everywhere but instead celebrates the alleged USPs of a beer that could be seen as both bad value and unmacho if you’re not careful. They talk about staying longer at the pub without losing control, going out with friends mid-week when you know you have to be in the office the next damn day in order to keep that overdraft from hitting the bottom. Or that a pub lunch on a Wednesday can be something to dread as not all of us can get things done when bombed. It also sets up the possibility of further executions – think about the bloke making a drunken pass at some random mong or turning up for a meeting smelling like a dead Kentish Town tramp with the mental skills of a wet breezeblock. Of course, much like Light fags and every other apparently emasculated vice it probably will just make people do (and therefore spend) more. Dark genius indeed. What is interesting is that in the states you are more likely to see celebration of real beers in supermarkets and everywhere else thanks to the ‘microbrew’ movement. Maybe when I am waiting for the reaper, I will be able to go into a pub and see better stuff on tap than yellow fizz. Or not.

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