Pubpaper 675 – Beer and Cider Branding

Posted: 17th September 2012 by santobugtio in Pub Paper, Writing
Tags: , , ,

The branding of mainstream beers and ciders is a multi million pound industry in its own right.
Their methods of keeping our attention vary from one advertising agency to the next, but they all fight to gain our focus.   A large percentage of this money is spent by a few multinationals promoting their core and upcoming brands.  When you move down the scale of size to medium and small breweries, you will find very few breweries taking out large press or media campaigns in the national press or on TV channels.

There have been exceptions, in 2011, Wells and Young announced profits of £11,000,000, later that year they launched the campaign featuring Rik Mayall as “The Bombardier” to promote the beer of the same name.  This campaign cost between £4-5 million including TV, sponsorship and print spend.  You cannot deny it has significantly increased the awareness of Bombardier ale and has probably paid off for the company (although I could find no figures to confirm this), but it was a significant risk to commit to spend half of your profit for the previous year to promote a single brand.

Before the advent of Twitter, Facebook and related social media sites, the small brewers would have been at a disadvantage, relying on local advertising, building up awareness via beer swaps and the natural publicity from being served in pubs.  The internet has changed all this, whether it helps make the customer more informed about the brewers products, giving a free outlet for publicising successes for the business, letting people know when new beers are being brewed, or simply what pubs or beer festivals the beers will be served at.  They can also build up a following, in previous times it would have been the physical newsletter being posted, now it can be delivered to their Facebook home page, Twitter feed or email inbox.

The smaller and mid sized brewers sell their products on taste, variety and simply being known for making good beers.  Some of course are known for the more artisan specialist beers while others just make good honest session ales, usually the smaller operations for the former and the medium scale businesses for the latter.  However in the multinational and large scale beer and cider operations, brand differentiation is key to the companies as in a blind test most of their products are roughly similar, so taste cannot be used as a key driver of loyalty, they can alway fall prey to the order of “pint of lager” with an equal chance of gaining or losing the sale against a “named beer” order.  The order of a “pint of ale” is a lot rarer.

Take Magners and Bulmers cider, two of the biggest cider brands in the UK which taste roughly similar and although not offensive to drink, they aren’t drinks you would call special.  There are of course plenty of better ciders out there from Westons, Aspalls and number of smaller presses including Udders Orchard and Pure North, both from the Huddersfield area.  But their marketing is spot on for their intended audience, casual drinkers wanting an easy drink.   Magners had a genius moment 6 years ago when they started to market “cider over ice”, although guaranteed to kill any flavours it did catch the public imagination in a serious way.

They also work the split campaign well, using aspirational adverts featuring a glorious summer day with people in their mid twenties having fun with their pint of cider slowly being diluted by ice over the warmer months.  Post summer they trade on their heritage, with Magners using their Irish roots and Bulmers promoting their “provenance” as a cider maker.   Cidre from the makers of Stella Artois emerged on the scene in the last year trading on the “french” theme as all of the Artois campaigns do, but lets not pretend, it is still a fairly standard cider.

The large and multinational beer brewers don’t have this seasonal split to such a degree.  Guinness are famous for their high budget adverts which almost guarantee attention, and although the beer is bland, their advertising team do a very good job, and can run them pretty much any time of the year.  Carlsberg have used variations on their “probably the best beer in the world” tag line for many years. Kronenborg 1664 has gone down the arty route for a long time also, most recently with the “Slow the Pace” campaign where artists performed their songs in a sedate manner.

As a side note, at least Kronenborg can claim to having actual French heritage unlike Stella Artois which was first brewed in a Dutch speaking area of Belgium, both of course being brewed under license in the UK for the home market.   However it shows the power of marketing where both are considered equally French.