02 Apr 2009 @ 9:59 AM 
 

Bittersweet: In response to Kristy.

 

Yesterday, I was lucky enough to get a response on my post about the Bittersweet Partnership from what would appear to be Kristy McReady, Communications Partner, whose job it is to “engage with consumers via press and the website to help raise awareness of women and beer as an issue and ultimately BitterSweet Partnership’s aims to address it.”

Meet Kristy!

Meet Kristy!

Which, well.. well done, Kristy. Mission accomplished… sorta.

For those of you just tuning in, here is the text of the post:

Kristy from BitterSweet here – thanks for picking up on the story.

The BitterSweet Partnership was launched as we believe that the beer industry has ignored women for far too long. We know that lots of women already love beer, but our research showed that almost 8 out of 10 women (77%) say they seldom or never drink it,.

The ‘clear beer’ is a completely new, ultra filtered beer product which is still in development and has yet to be launched or even named. We’re listening to all women to understand what they want from a beer, so this is just one product that we’re currently testing – we’re looking at product developments to match a whole range of tastes, plus creating better buying and drinking experiences for women. We’ll also be working with Coors Brewers to help inform the way Coors brands generally engage with women in the future.

We’re about making beer an acceptable and stylish drink choice for women, not about encouraging women to drink more – we strongly recommend that women stick to government guidelines on safe drinking.

I want to say that I think it’s admirable that the Bittersweet Partnership has taken the time to search Twitter and respond to blogs about this. I do wish that the response didn’t seem so … canned. I really do hope that it was Kristy doing this and not some minion on Kristy’s name. That would make me feel good. Given that Kristy is supposed to be in the UK and the post came in at 5:07 PM EDT (or 10:07 PM GMT), I’m not so sure, but I’m willing to give them (her?) the benefit of the doubt. [Note: The IP address checks out to a UK cable internet provider, so.. hey.. cool.]

Dear Kristy,

Thank you. I appreciate your input. I’d like to respond to your post in a few ways.

First, I’d like to point out that stating research statistics without a reference or any sort of methods is a bit tough to swallow. I’m not disagreeing with the finding, as I don’t find it necessarily surprising, but I see nothing here about who you asked, how you asked it, or why said women seldom or never drink beer, or even if you were merely asking about Coors products or beer in general. As a counterpoint, my research clearly shows that 83% (5 out of 6) of women drink beer but that 40% of those surveyed would prefer more elegant presentation in pub/club settings.

Furthermore, I think we need to redefine your terms a bit in order to get the real message from your post. I’d like to change “brewing industry” to “Coors” and “beer” to “Coors Product(s)” to give the content a little more perspective.

I think that there are a lot of women in the brewing industry who would be surprised to find out that they’re ignoring (other) women. In fact, the brewing industry as a whole isn’t ignoring women at all. Within the past couple of years, women’s relationship to beer has been a constant topic in the craft beer industry. There have been articles about it in trade magazines and it has a panel dedicated to it at the upcoming Craft Beer Conference. Marketing beer to women is part of improving the image of beer as a whole, especially in its relationship to wine and cocktails.

If we can change that sentence to “…we believe that Coors has ignored women for far too long…” then I think we have something more specific. It’s something that I can’t really speak to, as I don’t know enough about the inner working of Coors, but it’s something that you can speak to. You’re in the position to change that!

I have issues with the ultra-clear tea-and-fruit-flavored “beer” because I think at that point you’re changing the product. You might be selling beer by a very technical definition, but rather than helping your market segment understand why they should be buying your product, you’re changing your product for your market segment. Again, if we change “beer” to “Coors Product” I have a lot less issue with this. You’re creating a Coors Product that will appeal to a market segment? Awesome. Good luck with that. But let’s call an alcopop an alcopop.

The one area that I think is a great point in this post is the brief mention of “creating better buying and drinking experiences for women.” As a commenter mentioned yesterday, it can be difficult to be elegant while swigging beer out of a bottle. While most of the beer bars that I frequent have rather elegant glassware to choose from, that certainly is not the case for most common establishments, especially if we are focusing on (as I think we are in this case) specifically pub culture. That is where Coors, and by extension, the Bittersweet Partnership has the power to change a lot.

Craft brewers, because they still only command a very small market share, don’t have the kind of influence to be able to say to your normal dive bar, “you will serve our beer in this manner in this glassware.” At this point it’s still difficult to get a majority of places to carry a product and keep their tap lines clean, much less serve beer in special glasses. Coors, and other megabreweries, however are in the position of being able to dictate these conditions to and through their distributors.

Mmm.. wheaty.

Mmm.. wheaty.


By now, I think we all know that Blue Moon is a Coors product, and word is that we’re about to see a huge spike in marketing dollars pushed at the brand. If you put money toward providing specialized glassware for it and distributing it to every upscale sports bar in the U.S. that carries Blue Moon, instead of some strained television commercial that plays alongside truck ads during baseball games, I pretty much guarantee that you see an uptick in sales.

In summary: Bittersweet, I don’t disagree with what you’re doing, or that there’s a problem with how beer, as a product, is related to women, but I do disagree with your tactic in addressing it. It is broad generalization of the beer industry, broad generalization of women, and borders on willful misinformation as a backbone for a marketing campaign.

I look forward to trying and reviewing your ultra-clear “beer.”

Tags Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
Categories: industry, op-ed
Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 02 Apr 2009 @ 12 38 PM

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Responses to this post » (9 Total)

 
  1. Russ Carr says:

    We’re listening to all women to understand what they want from a beer

    One wonders if they’re listening to the women who want their beer to be… beer.

    Formulations such as an “ultra filtered beer product” sound akin to “pasturized process cheese food” and “partially gelatinated non-dairy gum-based beverages.” It’s mock food, designed to replace the real thing, either to benefit the producer’s bottom line by being cheaper to produce, or to placate image-conscious consumers who would rather maintain the illusion than choose something contrary. But this is no more “beer” than Tofurkey is “poultry”.

    To the MillerCoors Marketing Division: there’s no shame in wanting to win more of the female demographic. It’s capitalism in action, and the country needs that more than ever, right? But ditch the smoke and mirrors, would you? Women, I’ve heard, appreciate being dealt with in an honest fashion. Take some budget to actually market your existing products to women, rather than just using women to market your products to men.

    Otherwise, I guarantee you’ll have frittered away precious R&D and marketing budget on Zima and Miller Clear redux. Mock beer is mocked beer. Nothing good can come of this.

  2. KJ says:

    Right on, Russ! The idea of “beer product” is just … ick. I don’t eat Velveeta for a reason, and I wouldn’t drink its equivalent.

  3. Sarah says:

    Russ stole my comments. 🙂

    I think Erik has hit the problem on the head: it’s not that “what I want from a beer” doesn’t exist in the world. It does, just not in a product made by Coors (as far as I know). Plunking a Coors Light in a fancy glass won’t make me drink their product. Now, if they can make a beer comparable to Harpoon’s Raspberry UFO, I might reconsider.

    I’ll be honest, though. I have a bias against the project that has nothing to do with the subject of women and beer. I am a huge fan of small craft breweries and market variety. I believe that small businesses have a greater chance of making a superior product, simply because they are producing it on a smaller scale and have more to lose if they screw it up. I believe that they also tend to be more genuinely innovative (to the Bittersweet Project: I’ve had a mint beer already – it’s a bad idea). For that reason, even if Coors does come out with a beer that I would like, I’m less likely to drink it, simply because I’d rather support smaller or local businesses. This is an ideological position that means that Kristy and I are (sorry, Kristy!) likely never to be entirely on the same page.

  4. meg says:

    I’ll admit that I do eat Velveeta on occasion, especially if there’s white bread in the house for some reason, but I don’t call it “cheese” or pretend I’m eating cheese when really I’m eating a processed cheese food product.

    There are times when I don’t want a beer or wine or liquor – when I’ll take a Mike’s Hard [fill in the blank] or even a wine cooler (*gasp*). But when I want a beer, well… I want a beer.

  5. I am indeed the real Kristy from BitterSweet Partnership here in the UK!

    As you say, BitterSweet Partnership is in a great position to bring about change, and that’s what we’re aiming to do. We’re trying to avoid generalisation by speaking to all women to find out what they want from beer and responding their feedback – this includes women who already love beer.

    I’ve worked for over 15 years in various places throughout the beer industry so I’m lucky to have a wide perspective of how the beer industry has traditionally treated women in the UK. As we’re an initiative for the UK, it’s great to get your perspective from a different market.

    In terms of adding fruit flavouring to beer, this is something that been done in Belgium for years, and our survey found that 52% of women said they don’t drink beer because of the taste. However our clear beer is just one of many initiatives we’ll be working on in response to women’s feedback – this will involve everything from the way beer is marketed to creating better buying and drinking experiences for women (good to see you approve of this!)

    If you want to find out about the methodology of our ‘Love Beer’ report, there’s a copy on our website. http://www.bittersweetpartnership.com/media/MEDIA%20REPORT%20FINAL%20USE.pdf

  6. erik says:

    Hey Kristy – That’s great! I’m so glad it is you. You have some crazy working hours. Thanks for taking the time to defend your brand and add input here.

    I do appreciate that the UK market is (likely vastly) different than the US market; I’m interested to see how this all shakes out.

    We are sadly going to have irreconcilable differences on this – a combination of our convictions and employment – but I hope you’ve taken the time to read through some of the comments that people have left here. Regardless of culture and market differences, women are women no matter what side of the ocean they’re on.

    I really am looking forward to trying this product.

  7. Russ Carr says:

    In terms of adding fruit flavouring to beer, this is something that been done in Belgium for years

    Just so we understand the difference here… there’s brewing beer with real fruit added during fermentation, and then there’s “adding fruit flavouring to beer.” I’m all for a fresh squeeze of lemon into a cold Hefe on a summer afternoon, but please, let’s not call dumping a bucket of mostly HFCS and “extracts” into a lager that’s already left the fermenter a “fruit beer.”

    our survey found that 52% of women said they don’t drink beer because of the taste

    By all means try and sell those 52% something else to drink. But if they don’t like beer because of the taste, and if the beverage you then create for them doesn’t taste like beer…would it still be called beer? Seems to me it’d be dicey marketing, because “beer” already has unwelcome connotations in that demographic. Call it something else (not “Zima”), and it might grab a niche…to say nothing of escaping the mockery of beer purists. 😉

    • Brian says:

      there’s brewing beer with real fruit added during fermentation, and then there’s “adding fruit flavouring to beer.”

      You do have to keep in mind, Russ, that Our Genial Host, beergeeky as he is, has successfully used cherry Kool-Aid as a flavoring agent.

  8. Nate says:

    “I think at that point you’re changing the product.”

    Yeah, that’s the splinter in my finger too…

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