Mainstream beer marketing can be tough. Like petrol, trying to distinguish a product that is largely identical to a competitor’s is difficult. Unlike petrol, Brewers want to avoid having to compete on price.
Brewers try to make their product memorable and build an emotional attachment with consumers through a number of devices. The most successful are where they create ads that engage and entertain and some of the funniest and most memorable television commercials are for beer. Just think of Carlton Draught’s ‘Big Ad’ or VB’s ‘The Regulars’.
Things can get a little stickier when marketers try to differentiate what is actually in the bottle. When you stop and look at their tag lines and descriptions such as ‘double hopped’, ‘chill filtered’ and ‘naturally brewed’, they are fairly generic, sometimes meaningless, statements. Then again they probably barely register with consumers when they sidle up to the bar.
Other marketing claims can confuse beer drinkers about what is in their glass and how it got there. A new campaign from Crown Lager, Australia’s best-selling premium beer, strays into this territory.
Centred on the time it takes to make the beer, the ad boasts it takes twice as long as its mainstream stablemates to mature. This sounds impressive, but we’ll never know. Fosters are reluctant to disclose how long Crown or its stablemates are actually brewed for to enable genuine comparisons between beers to be made. However, as a mainstream lager it is a fraction of the time taken by many of the smaller brewers cropping up these days.
The most confusing element of the campaign though is the tagline: Time. The fifth ingredient. Many beers use only malt, water, hops and yeast, and these are the ingredients trumpeted in the famous German beer purity law. Crown’s campaign would seem to suggest it only has these four ingredients, with time being the full stop in the sentence. Anyone visiting the product website is likely to have this impression confirmed as it proclaims Crown is made using “the finest barley, yeast, water and Pride of Ringwood hops”.
It’s not a correct assumption though. Like many beers, Crown also uses a substantial percentage of cane sugar in brewing. There’s nothing wrong with that and it’s a commonly used brewing adjunct, but not one that brewers tend to shout about because of the sub-premium perception it can create. These days many small brewers make an asset of the fact that their beers are all-malt and made without the use of cane sugar.
None of this changes how the beer tastes of course, but if you think marketing should tell the full story it may leave a bad taste.