Woking, England - When Sue Clark named the near-black Fawcett’s Folly imperial stout the winner of SABMiller’s 2013 employee brew-off contest last week, it was not just because she likes dark beer.
The head of the brewer’s European business praised its “360-degree marketing”, which appealed to both men and women and is the type of advertising she is betting on to help stem declines in beer demand.
Appealing to more women is not easy for big beer, as Molson Coors recently learned with the failure of its female-friendly Animee, which it pulled after 15 months. But Clark says more inclusive advertising, a broader range of beer styles and improving conditions at bars will help.
In the US, beer accounts for 42 percent of alcohol consumed, Clark said, down from a high of 72 percent a decade ago, before it lost ground to wine and spirits.
Trends in Britain and Western Europe are similar, she said, in her first extensive interview since becoming managing director last year.
Beer is losing its core drinkers as slowing population growth means fewer 18-35 year-old men. And underemployment, especially in jobs like construction, means men who fit the profile are often tight on cash.
Brewers must look more closely at older people and women, whom they had once all but ignored.
“If you look at all of our marketing it’s been the laddish humour, the sports occasions, the male bonding and friendship,” said Clark, at SABMiller’s office in Woking, southwest of London. “I think we could have been accused in the past to a certain extent – at best of not really appealing to women, and at worst of alienating them.”
She cringes at a 2006 Italian commercial for SABMiller’s Peroni beer that implied that women can not parallel park cars, though that is tame compared to an earlier US Miller Lite advert in which two buxom women rip each others’ clothes off and mud-wrestle in their underwear.
In the developed beer markets of Western and Central Europe and the US, women make up roughly a fifth of beer sales. Still, shouting at them with purely female marketing may not work either.
“We’ve got to try to keep the humour and the sociability, but you can do that in a way that is appealing to both sexes”
This can be done, she says, by focusing on the beer itself, such as in a new Peroni campaign that highlights its heritage in an Italian, cinematic style. Rival Heineken has done this as well, with a series of fun adverts filmed at exotic parties.
It is not just marketing that needs changing, but the drinks as well. Women often like lighter, sweeter drinks, and SABMiller – like every other alcohol company – has been launching flavoured drinks, which Clark calls “sweet and stickies”.
She said promising introductions include shandies and radlers, which are low-alcohol drinks mixing beer with lemonade, and new drinks in Poland under the Redd’s name which come in flavours like cranberry and grapefruit pineapple. – Reuters