About a year ago, Molson Coors released their new “female friendly” beer Animee complete with a £2 million marketing budget.  To make sure it wasn’t too hard for them to drink it was released in 3 flavours (clear filtered, crisp rose and zesty lemon), and marketed as ‘lightly sparkling’ not fizzy.  The beer was a result of interviewing tens of thousands of women over 2 years. Somebody got their focus group seriously wrong because a couple of weeks ago it was announced that the brand is being axed.

The sales figures said it all, in the peak sales period just after release, when the most promotion takes place, it was averaging £75,000 in sales per month in its first 4 months.  In comparison Carling Chrome (also launched by Molson Coors) was averaging £500,000 of sales per month in its first third of a year (figures from The Grocer, and cover supermarket sales only).  Taking into account the pub trade, I’m sure that Chrome would be asked for significantly more times than a pale imitation of a beer, so the differential would be greater between the two brands.

Desperation showed when in March of this year, they started to use Toni and Guy hairdressers as sampling locations, and bad marketing planning came to the fore when they only set up a Facebook page 5 months after release of the product.  At this time they were quoted as saying
It was encouraged by the response Animée had received. “It is early days and we knew it would be tough,” admitted the Molson Coors spokesperson [name removed]. “We have work to do to help people understand the brand.” (The Grocer)

Part of the reason they quote for axing the brand is “Animée was only one part of our plan…..We’ve found that some of our brands, such as Coors Light, Corona and Carling Zest, already attract a higher proportion of female drinkers.”.  Let me be quite honest about this quote, with the exception of Carling Zest which was only launched in March this year, thus having no impact on the sales of Animee in its crucial first 4 months, women were probably drinking these brands already, and never bothered to even try the new drink.

Coors Light and Corona are easy drinking beers so would appeal to casual drinkers of both sexes equally anyway, the increased percentage of women drinking the brands just shows more women are coming over to beer.  The late entrant Carling Zest, is a 2.8% “fruit accented beer” and was aimed at being an alternative to rose wine or cider over summer.  Zest also has the same marketing budget as Animee, but crucially targets both sexes this time.   While no sales figures could be found, the summer was successful enough for the brand that they committed to producing a winter version of the drink, so we can guess the marketing budget has paid for itself in sales.

Both Zest and Animee are alcopops in a beer suit, lets not pretend they are anything else, they sit on the same bench spiritually with Bacardi Breezer and Smirnoff Ice in the “Ready to Drink” sector of the alcohol market which is advertised in a more mature manner.  Zest is also on draught, but its heart lives in a bottle on a fridge shelf.  Animee was a product which was predicted to fail by many industry experts, commentators and bloggers including myself, and there was a collective cheer when the news of the axing dropped onto Twitter from people who are interested in the trade.

It was a product which effectively said “Women can’t handle real beer, so here is a fruity drink we call beer that won’t upset your delicate constitution”. An 21st century invention with a 19th century attitude to selling it.  Many women drink proper beer from good continental lagers to session ales to the best real and craft ales on the market, they don’t need telling that they need a drink just for them.   They may not have used a busty barmaid on the label, but were being as condescending with their attitude to the whole campaign in a different manner.

It doesn’t matter if the customer is male, female, martian or a single cell organism, they are a drinker and want something good to drink when at the pub or at home. If people wanted to be controlled and told what to do and buy, there are still a few countries around the world that could cater for them.  Commercial markets mean the weak products will die, just like Animee. Sometimes it is for the best to teach the market a lesson.  This is one such lesson.