Sucked Into The Vortex

This came out a month ago but somehow it escaped my notice then. MillerCoors unveiled their latest gimmick to sell more beer to wholesalers meeting in Las Vegas. According to Brand Week, it’s called the Miller Vortex and described as “a bottle with specially designed interior grooves that ‘create a vortex as you’re pouring the beer,’ according to a rep, who explained that the brand’s goal is to ‘create buzz and excitement and give consumers another reason to choose Miller.’ The Vortex bottle, which begins hitting shelves this month, will be supported by advertising from DraftFCB.”


As Peter Rowe succinctly put it in the San Diego Union-Tribune:

Miller’s Vortex bottle is, at first glance, stupid. The neck swirls your beverage as it’s poured. This, if we remember our Beer Chem 101, stirs up the aromas and unleashes a larger head.

All of which can be done by, what, pouring beer from an un-Vortexed bottle and giving your pint glass a twirl?

Exactly. This is one of those things nobody needed being touted as the savior of mankind. You can see how it works in the short video below.

In related news, I also saw a television commercial yesterday for Miller Lite‘s aluminum pint bottle, which they debuted to several test markets in 2008. I guess it must have gone well.


And now yesterday, I saw a press release that Miller is bringing out “improved” packaging for their Miller High Life. Perhaps most humorously, the release is titled Common Sense Gets A New Look. The release begins with this gem. “Miller High Life, the brand synonymous with common sense, is bringing a new look to store shelves this month with the debut of new primary and secondary packaging across all bottle and can offerings.” Synonymous with common sense? What does that even mean? Marketing Daily has the story, too. Below is the new 12-pack.


And here it is side-by-side with the old package. Wow the difference is so amazing, the beer’s just going to fly out of the store.

So that’s three cosmetic changes all geared to sell more beer, which is not bad in and of itself: a new gimmick bottle, an aluminum bottle and new packaging all designed to turn around slowing sales. And this is why I think the big guys will continue to slip. They never once considered it was what was inside the bottle that might be the problem. Sure, packaging needs to be updated from time to time, but gimmicks are never a good idea, at least to my way of thinking. Maybe they’ll get an initial trial sales bump from the curious, but I can’t see that it will last. The vortex is completely ridiculous, even embarrassing. The aluminum bottle doesn’t seem any better than the can, but is more expensive to produce. New packaging will, of course, become old packaging in time.

The real reason that sales are falling is that people are turning to other products, notably craft beer. But Miller still sells an awful lot of low-calorie light beer — I don’t understand for the life of my why anyone buys light beer — and so there’s really no impetus to change it or abandon it. As a result, they’ll keep throwing whatever they can think of against the wall to see what might stick and thus drive sales. And apparently, anything they can think of is a very broad range indeed. Given what they’ve tried in the past and what they’re currently trying, I’d love to know what some of the ideas that didn’t get out of the meetings might be. That should be a pretty funny list.


  1. The Duke Of Dunkel says

    Top Ten Future Miller Brewing Company Marketing Gimmicks:

    10. The propeller cap
    9. 8 oz beer pouches
    8. Alphabet Beer
    7. “sippy bottle”, with built-in straw
    6. slip-free velcro label; velcro glove sold separately
    5. 24-oz Dual Neck “Tandem Bottles”
    4. Cup-o-beer (just add water)
    3. Miller Special Hairball Formula
    2. the 4G iCan
    1. A prize in every bottle

  2. The Professor says

    Well, I often play devil’s advocate and come to the defense of the big brewers, whom I still believe are not doing it 100% wrong and are making some good, truly “craft” products…
    but yeah, you’re right…these ‘vortex’ things are just plain dumb. Pure gimmickry. And while we’re at it, if common sense were an issue, wouldn’t Miller just ditch the clear bottles?

  3. Mr. Nuts says

    The new Miller High Life can designs are awful, too. Better than the current one — but still worse than the one around 5 years ago that had “the girl on the moon” on one side of the can.

    Anyway, all marketing innovation isn’t bad. Coke came out with a 14 oz. plastic single serve bottle which retails in convenience stores for 99 cents. They sell a million of them a day. That’s terrific marketing.

    On the other hand, what’s going on at MillerCoors is flat out gimmickry. The vortex bottle is stupid. Same with the High Life redesign. However, the 16 oz aluminum bottle at least has a chance for producing ongoing incremental sales — albeit at slightly less margin because those containers cost a fortune to produce.

  4. Erik says

    I actually like the redesigned High Life packaging. Nothing wrong with keeping your presence on the shelf updated and all in all it’s a fairly classy look. The other innovations.. yeah they are just a bit ridiculous.

  5. MJM says

    Here’s the angle…they want you to pour beer into a glass. While some would claim that beer out of a glass or mug tastes better, their hypothesis is that beer drunk from a glass is consumed at a higher rate = more cases sold.

  6. Kevin says

    I started drinking miller light because it’s one of the lowest carb beers on market, and I’ve lost 50 lbs in 4 months on a low carb diet. I definitely miss my dogfish head, flying dog, and fat tire, but if i can live without sugar i can also live without good beer. And miller lite is a lot better than other lower carb beers that i’ve tried.

  7. Kevin says

    Oh, I almost forgot to say that I agree this whole gimmicky vortex bottle thing is ridiculous. I just happened to notice that my beer had a rifled bottleneck and had to google it to find out wtf it’s all about, which brought me to this page.

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