What Is a Beer?
If we are to arrive at a meaningful content opportunity for beer brands, we first need to figure out what the product actually is at this point. It’s not so clear.
The presence of alcohol is no longer a defining feature. Fourteen percent of beer drinkers have had a low-alcohol beer in the past three months, and 7 percent have had a nonalcoholic beer, according to Mintel. Heineken 0.0 ads are everywhere, and nonalcoholic products represent one of the few growth areas for an industry under threat by consumers’ interest in drying out.
According to the Reinheitsgebot, 16th-century German purity regulations for beer, the only acceptable ingredients for beer are water, barley and hops. But no one cares anymore. Fruit beers are a promising product innovation. Rice beers, sour beers—the only thing that doesn’t seem to show growth is beer beer.
Perhaps it’s the taste, then. Not even. On the other end of the spectrum from nonalcoholic beer drinkers is a growing segment of seltzer enthusiasts who seem determined to avoid the taste of beer and its characteristic breadyness. Pabst Blue Ribbon launched a cannabis-infused nonalcoholic seltzer in 2020. Is that beer?
Thirsting for the Beer Occasion
“Value” has long been a tenet of the beer category, especially for the U.S. market, and particularly for light beer brands. But it’s only the expensive beers, like crafts and imports, that are maintaining volume sales. Light beer is suffering in value perception because it’s not seen as healthy or exciting.
Beer doesn’t even need to be fizzy anymore! Extreme beer enthusiasts have indulged in flat, complex-tasting beers for years now.
If there is any animating feature of beer at this point, it’s the experience or feeling of drinking one—an occasion more so than a product—and we can’t afford to let other categories try to nab it.
According to Mintel, 72 percent of U.S. adults seek fun in all aspects of life. And 74 percent say experiences are more important than material possessions. Beer is relaxing and fun. There you have it.
From beaches to campsites to stadiums to music festivals to living rooms, beer has owned the “fun, chill experience with friends” occasion (FCEWF), and consumers love the product for this reason. These moments represent the most sublime memories in many people’s lives. That consumers who are trying to reduce their alcohol consumption or watch their waistlines drink nonalcoholic beers rather than sodas, juices or waters means they haven’t lost their thirst for the beer occasion and what it represents. In some sense, nonalcoholic beer drinkers are the most passionate, loyal consumers the category has.
For beer brands to guard their ownership of the FCEWF occasion from the onslaught of seltzers, ciders, cannabis products and canned mixed drinks that want to offer the same good times sans carbs, they’re going to need to start thinking about content as their default beer marketing discipline rather than advertising.
Don’t Settle for the Same Old Beer Marketing Strategies
The 30-second vignettes of FCEWF moments are wearing thin. Merely depicting fun, like attractive people chilling on a rooftop, will not cut it in this battle for the soul of fun, especially during the pandemic, as that will look like a cruel fantasy to many. It’s time to get our hands dirty and actively cause these occasions to happen, as consumers desperately need some help having fun. Remember: Advertising is saying; content is doing.
If your brand is a premium import for tastemakers, give people unique, memorable experiences, like Airbnb’s Online Experiences. If you’re an indie brand aligned with the music scene, do what Charleston Mix did and provide an intimate view of great artists. If you’re a light beer for young men who like to giggle, pioneer the next hilarious digital card game, like Evil Apples. Or take people backstage at a comedy club. Or sponsor a stand-up comedy class on MasterClass.
Beer brands now have an opportunity, and even a right, to get into the entertainment business rather than just sponsor it. Don’t settle for product placement in a movie when you could produce the movie yourself. Don’t settle for distribution rights at a music festival when you could be the festival—or the band, for that matter. What’s more, don’t even settle for these standard definitions of entertainment. There’s more to life than music and sports. If you study what your consumers actually do online, you will discover a curious world of ASMR-loving, pimple-popping, pet-training, book-reviewing, dance-move-inventing people who are extremely resourceful about having fun.
As beer brands face an existential relevance crisis over the next few years, it will be important not to rely on the same old bag of beer marketing tricks. Beer brands can still cement their ownership of the FCEWF occasion by causing the fun they purport to be, through content. And you don’t need a massive content machine churning out hundreds of articles across five pillars to do it. Just start with your brand point of view and a simple, repeatable idea. We can help.
For a randomly generated list of FCEWF content ideas customized to your brand, reach out to us here.