MillerCoors dropped me an e-mail last week noting that it was releasing a new ad campaign (below) aimed at combating Bud Light’s Dilly Dilly commercials that directly criticize Miller Lite and Coors Light over their alleged use of corn syrup in the brewing process. If you’ve just arrived home from some distant planet, or if you’re like me and have already dismissed the Super Bowel stunt, here’s the backstory. Then last Friday I also noticed MillerCoors had filed suit against Anheuser-Busch over the commercials. According to CNN Business:
MillerCoors said in Thursday’s lawsuit that Anheuser-Busch “plotted an extensive and pervasive advertising scheme designed to frighten consumers into switching away from Miller Lite and Coors Light to Bud Light.” It accused Anheuser-Busch of using corn syrup as a fermentation aid in drinks such as Stella Artois Cidre and Bud Ice.
It all feels like fairly desperate attempts to grab headlines and keep our attention. Let’s break it down by market share. In 2008, Anheuser-Busch Inbev held 48.8 percent of the U.S. beer market. In 2018, that’s down to 40.8 percent. In 2008, MillerCoors held 29.4 percent of the U.S. beer market. In 2018, that was down to 23.5 percent. That industry data comes from the National Beer Wholesalers Association. Today, there are more than 7,000 breweries in America, and the beer market overall continues to shrink as youngsters gravitate toward other beverage categories.
The market is evolving and the classic Big Beer back and forth between MillerCoors and Anheuser-Busch seems pretty irrelevant at this point. The fact is, Bud Light, Miller Lite and Coors Light are similar beers in style and quality — especially in today’s market that has a crazy amount of unique brands. Do negative ads even work? No one knows. Negative ads maybe are more memorable, but both of these giant, money-making beer companies look more desperate each time they aim low. Anheuser-Busch in particular has made negative marketing a point of pride, but it would be wise to embrace more positive touch points like its Super Bowl immigration ad and its Amy Schumer gender equality commercial. On the MillerCoors side, the recent campaign for its Saint Archer brand is great storytelling.
In complete contrast, the craft industry is attempting to seem ultra inclusive, and as the big boys continue to bicker over a shrinking marketplace, I imagine a lot of craft brewers are sitting back and enjoying the show.