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5 Things I Know About Marketing โ€“ MillerCoors CMO Andy England

Andy England, executive vice president and chief marketing officer for MillerCoors, believes that marketing beer is all about “storytelling,” and at MSI’s November Trustees Meeting, he’ll share some stories about consumers, beer, and how marketing organizations need to change to meet consumer needs. In October, he talked with Executive Director Kevin Lane Keller, who had been one of his marketing professors in Stanford’s MBA program. Below is an edited version of England’s remarks.

1

The product experience is your most important investment. Make it special.

As it turns out, gaining trial with consumers can often be relatively easy, but getting them to repeat purchase can be hard. The best way to do that is to make the product experience so special and so wonderful that people will want to have that experience again.

For several years, we invested in the product experience for Coors Light. We had a number of packaging innovations—cold activation, the frost brew liner, the re-sealable aluminum pint—all intended to enhance the product experience. The idea driving those innovations was that the perfect Coors Light drinking experience is when the beer is as cold as the Rocky Mountains of its heritage. The investments we made in these packaging improvements were margin diluting—we didn’t think we could raise prices to compensate—but the improvement in the product experience was so significant that the trend change in sales was tremendous; it was the foundation of an extended period of growth for the brand.

Another example: Coors Banquet, which we only brew in Golden, Colorado. That brewing location, and the ingredients associated with the area, are a vital part of its authenticity and heritage. Again, we think it’s so important that Coors Banquet is brewed strictly in Golden with Rocky Mountain water and high country barley that we’re willing to take a substantial margin hit to create that unique product experience.

2

Great big brands start small.

In this day and age, consumer discovery is so important. People want to discover things for themselves, not through a national television commercial, but through what their friends are doing, through word of mouth, by seeing what others are enjoying, and so on. Many of the biggest brands started small and grew in that way. There are endless examples.

Consider Blue Moon. When Coors introduced Blue Moon in 1995, it was a multi-style launch, but by 2000, the only style left was Blue Moon Belgian White. Coors nearly discontinued the brand, but Belgian White seemed to have traction in the Upper Midwest, so the company decided to stay with it. Focusing on what was working and getting smaller paid off. Blue Moon went from being a small craft beer in the Midwest to being the tremendous national brand that it is today. 

3

One size does not fit all.

In consumer products, fragmentation is a reality. Manufacturers in general—and brewers in particular—have to make sure their offerings appeal to different tastes and different occasions. 

For example, we created Redd’s Apple Ale for the FMB (flavored malt beverage) space.  We’ve subsequently launched Redd’s Strawberry, which is apple based with strawberry infused, and we just launched Redd’s Wicked Apple Ale, which is a higher alcohol by volume apple ale.  Each addresses distinct market opportunities while strengthening the overall brand franchise.

The number of brands of beer on the shelf today is mind-boggling. In 1980 there were about 100 breweries in America; in 2014 there are 3,500. And there are more on the way.  How far can the fragmentation go? We’ll see!

4

The Latino population should be a top priority for any consumer marketer.

Mathematically, if you don’t win with Latinos, for many marketers, it will be increasingly difficult to win. 

For example, Texas has always been a big beer-drinking state and we have always invested substantially in building our brands with Latinos in Texas.  They are incredibly important to the Miller Lite brand. In fact, the first brewery to brew Miller Lite was in Fort Worth.

There certainly are differences in taste preferences with Latinos, but it’s really a matter of truly understanding and appreciating the important role of beer in the Latino world. We work hard to get those rich insights about how and when they drink beer and then apply that in our communications.

Investing locally is key to success with Latino consumers. The way to success is to remain committed, continue to invest and stay the course, adjusting your marketing all the time until you find the approaches that work.

5

Brands must be transparent and stand for something. 

There’s so much information out there. Being up front and transparent about who you are and why you do what you do is critical to avoiding potential pitfalls.

Today, people don’t just want to buy brands, they want to join brands. They want to join brands that stand for the same things that they stand for. So being honest about your products is vitally important in creating a community around your brand. 

Miller Lite is a perfect example. We tried all sorts of things to bring glamour and glitz to the brand. Then at the beginning of 2014, we reintroduced the Miller Lite original can that went national in 1975. We thought this would be a two- or three-month program, but the trend change in sales was dramatic.

What we learned was, how about we just be ourselves? It’s like we’re being reborn! It looks great—the original graphics were really well done and they feature hops and barley and all the great ingredients that go into the beer. And it’s well differentiated versus competition.  It talks about Miller Lite for what it is. It’s a great-tasting light pilsner beer and it has the beauty of authenticity. And the trends just keep getting better. We’re showing our true colors and it’s working wonderfully.

Five Things I Know About Marketing Series

Related links

Board of Trustees Meeting: Building a World Class Marketing Organization
Nov 13 – Nov 14, 2014, The Ritz-Carlton, Chicago, IL

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