Dan Fox
The views expressed in db Reader do not represent the views of the drinks business.

How much distinctiveness? Two beer brands go to extremes

We have yet to hear a single cogent argument against grounding a beer brand’s advertising on the distinctiveness of its product offering. After all, why would a marketer invest large budgets behind ads that offer no reason to buy, and instead just entertain?

They’d be tacitly admitting their brand is no different than its competition. Absence of cogent arguments notwithstanding, some brands still do continue down this unproductive avenue. Yet there also are encouraging signs those ranks may be thinning. Recent ads from no less than Budweiser and Heineken abandoned years of entertainment-only fluff in favour of newly focused, distinctiveness-based messaging.

One extreme

Still, all distinctiveness efforts are not born equal. Brands can choose to minimise their use of this key strategic asset. Here’s the latest ad from Bud Light which illustrates the point. Call it a “dash of distinctiveness” in an otherwise unrelieved parade of celebrity-rich ads intended to be entertaining. Or amusing. Or something.

This is the first “Bud Light Party” ad to mention anything about the beer. Well okay, not exactly about the beer. “Bud Light has a new look” is, nonetheless, a statement of distinctiveness. Just not that much distinctiveness. If the only thing you can think of to distinguish your brand is its new label design, you just aren’t thinking very hard. Heck, every brand’s label is unique.

Isn’t there something more substantive about the formula, ingredients, brewing process, or taste profile of the beer that makes it better for the party? Something that might prompt folks to choose it over Miller Lite or Coors Light, beers routinely priced identical to Bud Light? Forget the Bud Light party, isn’t there a reason to choose this beer foryour party?

Finding and focusing on the critical distinctiveness of the brand is a beer marketer’s greatest challenge. And it’s not easy. It demands marketing management engage in a process of  thoughtful investigation, creativity, and critical decision-making.  Settling on the key product-distinctiveness strategic message is rightly marketing leadership’s Job #1. Ad agencies can help, but the responsibility is not theirs. The chief marketing officer is the chief distinctiveness officer, too.

The other extreme

So, if Bud Light is the poster child for minimal distinctiveness, is there a brand on the other end of the scale?

Maybe this one. And it doesn’t even advertise on television!

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Colorado Native exemplifies “all-in on distinctiveness.” Every marketing aspect of the brand aims to register its uniqueness. From brand name, to ingredient sourcing, to the place it’s brewed, to where it’s sold, even to the “C” logo not so loosely borrowed from the state flag, all of it registers: real Colorado beer. And this “100% Colorado” platform delivers a waterfall of favourable imagery for the brand.6362576

In choosing this route to distinctiveness, Colorado Native made the tough call to focus, and by doing so, also to exclude. You can almost hear the inevitable naysayer at the marketing decision table worrying, “Won’t we be alienating folks in Wyoming?”

The truth is, distinctiveness acts as a magnet. The combination of simplicity and focus in the service of a provocative and appealing product story is irresistible. Proof? Colorado Native is reportedly enjoying back-to-back years of 20% volume growth. By comparison, after SuperBowl ads and tens of millions of media dollars, Bud Light’s low-to-no-distinctiveness campaign has yet to reverse the brand’s multi-year decline. 

Distinctiveness extremes.

Choose wisely.

 

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