There was an interesting, albeit, short piece on Brandweek yesterday entitled Which Brand Would You Wear on a T-Shirt? concerning a study done by the southern California ad agency David & Goliath. They interviewed people in local bars and asked them which of 25 popular beer and liquor brands would you be willing to wear on a T-shirt, and why? As Brandweek characterizes the goal, it “was to get a grassroots gauge on the badge value of beer and spirits brands today.” Jack Daniel’s was the number one spirits brand, but it was the beer results I was interested in. Here are the top five.
- Blue Moon
- Stella Artois
- Bud Light
- Pabst Blue Ribbon
According to their observations those vacation commercials Corona has been running actually made people think the beer was good, though in ad-speak they used the jargon “resonate,” as in resonated with consumers. And Stella Artois has the distinction of being called “the new Heineken,” as dubious a distinction as I can imagine given how skunked Heineken usually tastes. The report also apparently said people felt Stella was “considered premium and culturally unique.” Unless “culturally unique” means “tastes like every other Euro lager,” then I’m baffled. But then advertising is all about creating a perception that often isn’t in touch with reality.
Based on the results, I presume the only brands offered in the survey were big ones — read with large marketing and advertising budgets — and the bars they visited were of a particular type, most likely hip, trendy and/or with a younger skewing demographic. David & Goliath chairman David Angelo said of their method. “This simplified approach gets to the heart of what people really think and feel about beer and spirit brands.”
Does it really? I’m not sure I’d agree with that statement. I think it’s more likely a testament to the power of marketing. For these brands that are largely indistinguishable — Blue Moon excepted — to have any individual association, it requires that they spend huge sums of money on hammering the brand perception into the minds of potential consumers. That it works says more about people than the brands. But what do people “really think and feel about beer and spirit brands” that hasn’t been spoon fed to them via advertising? It’s a relatively safe bet that if they’re still drinking these brands, then they have had very little beer education or have been exposed to the variety of beer otherwise available to them.
But Angelo wonders aloud. “Beyond product traits, is there a deeper mindset or association that your brand could use to connect with people?” But none of these brands — again except Blue Moon — have any real product traits. Line them up and the average person could not identify them blindfolded. Without the marketing barrage, they become a commodity. Only their marketing distinguishes them from one another.
It’s a shame there’s so little detail about this study, the method they used to elicit the responses, the full list of brands, and all of that. But the agency’s website has nothing further and as far as I can tell, only Brandweek is reporting on it. I’d certainly be interested to know if any true craft brands were included.
But let’s get back to the T-shirts for a moment. Now that AB 1245, the Trash & Trinkets bill has passed, by 2011 these companies can spend $5 per person on direct marketing (assuming the Governor signs it, of course). With their buying power they could easily purchase logo T-shirts for less than $5, meaning they will be able to not only ask what T-shirts people would be willing to wear, but actually hand them the shirt on the spot. Now that’s “connect[ing] with people.” And it’s also not too hard to see how that would give an enormous advantage to the brands who can afford it.