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Miller Lite: A failure of marketing leadership

Just when we thought news in the beer business had slowed, the marketing brain trust at Miller Lite took us by surprise. They announced their fifth ad agency in as many years.

Hung up: What happpens when leadership can’t or won’t lead

Actually, this latest change wasn’t announced by the brewery’s marketing leaders as has been common in the past. Instead, MillerCoors rolled out a spokesperson who described the decision thusly:

Miller Lite is the original light beer, and we are tremendously proud of this unique beer and brand. As we continue to share that pride with beer drinkers, we need partners that will evolve and contribute to that journey with us.

Ah, the old “evolving partners” angle.

A year and a half back, on the occasion of the last Lite ad agency change–at that point, the fourth in four years–we pinpointed the brand’s real advertising challenge. It had nothing to do with evolving partners, journeying, or any other public relations mumbo-jumbo.

The answer… lies not in white cans, Los Angeles, retro-hipness, or even “talking about the beer.” The answer lies in saying something about Miller Lite that is factual, and at the same time persuasive to enough beer drinkers to cause them to try the brand, come back to the brand, or choose the brand more often. This is what sound marketing strategy does.

The failure to develop this winning advertising strategy for the brewery’s second-largest brand does not rest with ad agency #1, #2, #3, or #4. It rests squarely on the shoulders of the top marketing executives, and indeed, the chief executive at MillerCoors. And maybe that’s why they’re shying away from the press spotlight now.

Any fool can say “make this brand grow,” but a true marketing leader will frame the issue, fully engage in the deliberative process to sort options, and finally, champion a compelling strategy to deliver that increased volume.

The lack of a compelling marketing strategy on Miller Lite is the failure of Miller Coors marketing leaders… to lead. Four ad agencies have learned this the hard way.

Absent this leadership from the brewery, ad agency #5 is already screwed.



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