MillerCoors has some big new plans for Blue Moon, which I posit is ultimately a good thing for the craft beer industry. I’ll get to that. First, the new plans, which involve some design tweaks, new packaging, new beers and even a new brewery.
“Since the drinker’s world has evolved quicker than our creative expression, our articulation of creativity started to feel old and heavy,” the company noted in its press release. “Our campaign pivot is to retain the creative roots of Blue Moon while evolving our articulation of creativity.”
The new packaging will hit the shelf on April 1. Blue Moon also announced a new brewery in Denver’s RiNo Arts District, which will join the SandLot brewery as a canvas for creating, testing and enjoying new Blue Moon beers. The facility will include a brewhouse capable of 20 to 35 barrels (bbls). Annual capacity projects to be 10,000 bbls.
Here is the commercial:
Within the news release, the company calls Blue Moon “the No. 1 craft brand in America.” Such claims have led to at least one customer suing the company, citing deceptive marketing practices. As of yet, courts have not agreed, although the tax code might officially decide this “craft beer” debate at some point. While we are skeptical of Blue Moon being dubbed a “craft beer” — in the idea that craft beer companies promote community, environmentalism, charity, small businesses, fellow brewers and experimental brewing — we might be OK with parent company MillerCoors promoting it as craft.
Take this scenario: If the huddled masses turn to Blue Moon over bland lagers as a craft beer, knowingly decide to drink this “craft beer” that comes with an orange slice, and they like it, this might help folks consider your brewery, right? Just take this delusional quote from its rebranding press release:
“It became clear we needed to recruit new consumers into craft, and welcome drinkers into a beer that is both confident and playful, sophisticated and fun.”
This is an idea openly being promoted by a Big Beer company. You can focus on the fact that they are kind of misrepresenting the company’s position within the beer marketplace, or you can focus on the fact that a billion-dollar company is throwing its marketing weight behind promoting the concept of craft beer.
I know, it is their “craft beer,” but what do we know about people who become craft beer drinkers? They are experimenters. They seemingly have no brand loyalty. They like to try things, but they all don’t start that way. Take VFWs, Elks clubs and seedy drinking haunts that have no sign like “The Cotton Club” (our personal northeast Ohio fave) that have endless card games and a fridge full of Genesee, Budweiser, Old Milwaukee and that’s it. Those patrons will need more than a zany tap handle or cool end cap display to feel experimental. Some of that is generational, but maybe, the new idea just hasn’t reached them or sunk in yet.
This is where Blue Moon works against its Big Beer brethren brands. Mass marketing is a powerful and dangerous thing. Keep beaming that message at people and over time, like waves against a rock, an impression imperceptibly forms. Someone whose brand-loyal foundation erodes enough to try and enjoy a Blue Moon is now more likely to take a chance on your wheat beer. It might just be 5 percent more likely, but it is still an increase.
Big Beer can hurt craft beer by gobbling up shelf space and vertically integrating distribution, but marketing the shit out of a beer that has “a touch of coriander” seems like a win for the craft beer industry.