Booze, the B-List and Beer

I came across an article in USA Today indicating that US alcohol consumption hit a 25-yeat high. Americans drank the most wine on record (2.3 gallons per person). Spirits grew by 18% to 1.5 gallons. But, beer dropped 7 percent to 20.7 gallons according to the Beer Institute.

The report brought to mind an article in Wine & Spirits Daily back in October. Speaking to the National Beer Wholesalers Association, Tom Long of MillerCoors, indicated that the beer industry could learn a thing or two from spirits marketing.

To further illustrate the problem, according to Ad Age, AB InBev spent $555 million in measured media last year and still managed to lose a full share point. MillerCoors spent just under $400 million and lost half a share point. How does that work? Together they spent nearly a billion and lost market share. Is it the creative? Is it the media? Is it that consumer alcohol tastes are shifting to craft beers and spirits/wine? Probably all of the above.

Therefore, as a public service, I scoured the Internet to see if there is anything out there that I had not yet covered that might help the beer people.

First I thought about innovation.

What about new flavors? Look at the growth in flavored vodkas. First fruit then vegetables then exotic fruit, now all kinds of stuff. How about Whipped Cream, Marshmallow, Cupcake, Peanut butter? Probably too froufrou for the macho beer drinker.

How about new venues? I just read where White Castle is thinking about joining other fast food spots in testing the sale of wine and beer. On second thought, White Castle is where you go after drinking, if at all.

So, I came to the conclusion that the answer lies in celebrity tie-ins. There have been a slew of them in 2011, some as celebrity ownership and some as endorsements. All are in the spirits or wine business and none in beer, until recently. Here’s a blurb from the LA Times about the Hanson brothers: “Hanson burrowed into our heads with their hit 1997 song “MMMBop.” Now they want space in our gullets with their soon-to-be-released beer MMMHop IPA (Indian Pale Ale). They may want to consider co-packing the beer with other Hanson logo products – toothbrushes or lunch boxes.

How about signing a deal with Sean Diddy Combs? After making a ton with Ciroc vodka, I’ve read that he is looking at tequila. Either Diageo didn’t sign him to spirits exclusivity or they want to do a tequila tie-in or he just wants to move on. Perhaps a beer company can get this booze pied piper to pimp their beer.

Here are some other celeb efforts:

Sammy Hagar, after selling off the majority of Cabo Wabo Tequila, now has a new spirits brand called Sammy’s Beach Bar Rum. I guess he thinks that lightning will strike twice. If it does, maybe he’ll do a beer.

Perhaps the beer folks should look at celebrity tie-ins with those who have recently entered the wine business. Like retired basketball player Yao Ming selling his Yao Family Wines exclusively in China. Or, AC/DC distributing wines in Australia called Drops of Jupiter Petite Syrah and Calling All Angel’s Chardonnay.

What about celebrities from the reality shows? Bethenny Frankel may be available now that her Skinnygirl brand has been acquired. The beer people could use her for light beers. A real natural would be “The Situation” who is supposedly hawking protein vodka.

So the beer people have lots to choose from. But my favorite is country music star Toby Keith who launched his Wild Shot mezcal. I love what he had to say about it the Bloomberg BusinessWeek,

“All the whiskey’s already been spoken for…and everyone’s got a vodka, and one of my buddies does tequila…But, there was no one doing mezcal.”

Talk about insightful marketing analysis. He’d be great for a beer brand.

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