Stop the pumpkin spice madness

Tis’ the season. Unfortunately.

I’d like to put that “unfortunately” in giant bold letters with three or four exclamation points and a few underlines to boot, but I have my standards.

pumpkin spice
This little critter started the pumpkin spice movement.

Don’t worry, I am not being a scrounge. So just relax. I am not taking a shot at Christmastime, not in any shape or form whatsoever. Christmas happens to be my favorite time of year, more now as it is also the birthday of my granddaughter. Just saying.

Nope, I am alluding to what has become the pinnacle of annoying times as a shopper. The grand ole’ time when everything under the sun has become infused with pumpkin spice. Gag me now.

This whole trend had a modicum of pleasantness at first. Sure, I liked a latte from Starbucks, especially when the ingredients in it were entirely real (so they said) and not artificial.

But the dyke spewed forth. A deluge of products — ludicrous ones at that — hit shelves everywhere. Consider the repulsiveness of the following:

  • Boulder Canyon Pumpkin Pie Kettle Cooked Potato Chips
  • Kellogg’s Pumpkin Spice Frosted Mini Wheats
  • Pumpkin Spice Oreos
  • Bert’s Bees Pumpkin Spice Lip Balm
  • Extra Pumpkin Spice Gum

It’s like a car wreck. You don’t want to look, but oh man it’s so bad. You just can’t peel your eyes away.

Is this the zenith of the Pumpkin Spice Apocalypse? 

I would give anything to make it go away. As Forbes indicated, however, the movement has become a $500 million niche craze, thanks to Starbucks.

You’ve got to be kidding me.

I beg of you, I plead. I’ll give you your latte if you promise me no more scented lightbulbs or dog cologne or Pringles. I just can’t take it any longer.

Nothing beats a Nespresso

I can’t go through any morning without a cup o’ joe. One of life’s great pleasures (for me at least) is that first sip of fresh brew. It makes me instantly feel awake. My whole world seems brighter with that first taste. Sure, that’s psychosomatic and all. But whatever, I’ll take it.

My addiction to coffee is fierce. By 10 am, I am usually four cups deep — and feeling on top of my game. Coffee no longer makes me jittery, as it did when I first began drinking it. Now it just makes me feel at ease.

This habit of mine has undoubtedly made me a bit of a bean snob. I won’t get anywhere near instant coffee nor for the shiny gold bags provided in hotel rooms. No sir, none of that is for me.

Nespresso
Having a Nespresso machine means you are a coffee connoisseur.

I want the good stuff. I love a french press with ripe beans ground for eight seconds. Actually, I find this to be one of the best methods in serving a newly minted roast and I enjoy the process. I like the Keurig for its ease of use but the pods have to be top of the line. Most of all, I love having coffee from a Nespresso machine.

Nespresso drinkers have taste

While my morning coffee is purposeful, a mug of Nespresso is an experience. What’s funny about that is that everything about the Nespresso brand itself points right back to the idea of it being an experience with its own unique process.

Consider this: Nespresso capsules (a more serious noun than “pod”) can only be ordered online. When you click on a particular capsule, you get a story about it accompanied by a savory picture. What’s more, you are provided with a similar “aromatic profile”of coffees. All this ties in seamlessly with the Nespresso brand — that when when you sip it, you are a true connoisseur of coffee. It’s what your self-identification becomes.

To fulfill that brand face, Nespresso brand has considered your senses with its coffee. In fact, it’s toyed with my senses so much so that, as I am tapping away at my keys, I envisioning sipping a cup.

Such a shame my machine is 25 minutes away at home.

Budweiser America is a cynical play

Beer drinkers, are you ready to drink some America? (I’ll wait until you mull that over.)

Yes, the Budweiser America campaign will be in full swing this summer, beginning later this month. Budweiser is changing the name of its brand to America through November’s elections.

Budweiser America
Why is the Budweiser America campaign even needed?

Sounds like a great pairing of brands, right? Not so fast. In fact, it’s a cynical, barely concealed move by a brand that is going the redundant route. Budweiser doesn’t need to be called America because, even though a Belgium brewery now owns it, the brand already means America. Doing this is like Apple changing its name to Innovation.

There’s a great deal of desperation within the Budweiser America campaign as beer sales of the major brands across the industry are dropping. The craft beers are eating market share and more drinkers are turning to wine and spirits. The major beer brands are beginning to feel they are becoming less relevant.

What the Budweiser America campaign does to the brand.

But Budweiser is still the market leader, especially its Bud Light brand, and those who prefer Bud are very loyal to the brand. You can ask a craft beer drinker what they want and they’ll ask, “Whadda got?” Ask a Bud drinker and they’ll say, “I’ll have a Bud.”

The underlying reason why Budweiser has been one of America’s strongest brands is because it is enthused with so much Americana without having to changes it name. Budweiser has already meant America.

What this demonstrates is that those at InBev (the Belgium company that owns Budweiser, along with Corona and Stella Artois) have little faith in the brand as it now stands.

Which is weird. Corona and Stella Artois are also powerful beer brands so you would think that InBev would have a great understanding of what makes brands work. The naked Budweiser America campaign is cynical because it suggests Americans will wake up and go, “Oh. Budweiser is for Americans. I never knew that.”

The campaign shows a complete misunderstanding of the power of the Budweiser brand itself. Maybe InBev doesn’t understand brand as well as we all thought.

The promise of the five-second ad from Pepsi

It’s no shock to say that we live in a world in which our attention spans have been reduced to seconds rather than minutes or hours. This has become a particular problem for advertisers when online advertising is so easy to skip after just a few seconds. Who really watches a full ad anymore?

Well, if you can’t beat ‘em, then you might as well join ‘em. Pepsi is doing just that with a new round of ads, primarily online, that are five seconds long and feature their bottles with emojis, thinking that those emojis will get across the right emotion in a very brief time.

As an old ad guy, I would normally bemoan this sort of approach because a five-second ad doesn’t allow for any kind of storytelling. For example, the pace of the wordless Matthew McConaughey spots for Lincoln is so perfect because the ads casually tell a story of luxury and coolness powerfully.

The Pepsi ads will make agencies think harder.

However, going with the shorter ads will make advertising agencies think harder about the message they are trying to send. So much of advertising is simply time and money wasted. There are several reasons for this, not the least of which is that few of them have a point. Even if they do, the point is usually not important.

Also, the idea of advertising – that you are getting the consumer to covet your product or service – gets lost in the mixture of what usually turns out to be a 30-second skit. In most ads, you don’t even know who the campaign is for. The logo appears at the end, but it’s easily ignored because the humor of the previous 29 seconds has obliterated it. The ad simply doesn’t fulfill its purpose.

Pepsi’s five-second spots aren’t anything groundbreaking in that the messaging is mundane. It does feed into Pepsi’s brand of fun, but it’s a little childish and I don’t know if people would actually want a bottle of Pepsi with a smiley face on it. (It’s not that different than Coke putting names on its bottles, which didn’t turn into much preference.)

But the promise of these five-second spots is that they are the future, and advertisers would be wise to really dig deep into what message they want to get across.

Beer Marketing and Differentiation

Beer Marketing — Growing Beer Market Share

Introduction

Beer marketingThe following glance at beer marketing will give you a quick peak into how Stealing Share operates and finds solutions. Of course, no branding project would be complete without market research and all too often beer marketing lacks valuable research. This is just a cursory analysis. But it suggests a brand position that beer brands could use to steal share based on our own experience and expertise in branding beers. If your brand needs to steal share, feel free to email us or call us.

Commercials

Keeping the advertising in mind for all of beer marketing is important because to be successful in stealing market share your brand needs to be both different and better. So try to keep in mind all the beer ads you’ve ever seen (COORS, Budweiser, Michelob, Miller, MGD, Corona, Beck’s, Heineken, Red Stripe, Bud Light, Sam Adams, Amstel Light and Coors Light — for example). (You can view many of the category commercials here in our beer market study). Take a look before going on with this article.

It’s important to start by briefly describing the personality, position and promise of each of the brands. Here is a short example of just a few US domestic brands.

Brand Personality Position Promise
Budweiser Confident. Hip. King of beers “I get it.”
Miller Lite Hip. Youthful. Beer for friends It’s the experience.
Coors Lite Hip (a bit sophomoric) Cold. From the Rockies. Everyman Beer.
MGD Cool. Aloof. Genuine Seize the day.
Miller High Life Knowable The High Life Everything in perspective.
Coors Real Legendary Be an original.
Michelob Cool. Knowing. Tastes Imported Taste

 

Possible Meanings

Beer Marketing Positions
There are many possible positions. The goal is to find the one with the highest emotional intensity.

We considered the positions that a beer brand could take based on the advertising when mapping out the beer landscape with the goal to create meaningful beer marketing messages. Of course that assumes that the advertisers know what they are trying to convey – and THAT is a frightening assumption. Remember, for a brand position to have any meaning there must be an opposite position that a brand could chose for any of the positions to have true meaning to the customer. For example, “Best” is not a brand position because no one would claim “worst.” “Best” simply isn’t believable to the customer. But someone may claim the “intimate” position because a competitor could claim “casual.” That would be believable because it’s positioned against another’s positioning. Below are some possible positions a beer could choose:

Rules of Positioning

The following rules are helpful when selecting a beer marketing position to steal share in your market.

  1. Thrust:
    The positioning must demonstrate an active competitive advantage. This advantage answers the question of “why should I care” from the perspective of the consumer.
  2. Beer Marketing
    Strategy has rules

    Gravity:
    The positioning must have a powerful relevance to the target audience and their interest and receptiveness must be peaked.

  3. Definition:
    The positioning must be distinctive. It must set the brand apart from the competition.
  4. Density:
    The positioning must be single minded. It must have clarity and simplicity and must illuminate the target’s main precept.
  5. Synthesis:
    The positioning must be fused together in an emotional bond with the target audience. It must grab them in the gut.
  6. Integrity:
    The positioning must be believable. If the message raises suspicion – even if it is true – barriers are raised.
  7. Precision:
    The positioning must speak to the target that is best positioned to influence consumption or to consume that product or service.
  8. Convergence:
    The positioning must convey the same positioning message in all of the ways in which the consumer has of touching the brand.
  9. Momentum:
    The present positioning must build upon (but never mimic) the equity (if any) of past communications to leverage any residual positioning equity.
  10. Acceleration:
    The positioning must keep pace with the changing markets to evolve constantly making itself increasingly effective each day.

Beer Marketing and the Current Market

Next, we map out graphically how the major beer brands see themselves to check if there’s a position ready for the taking. This is an important exercise in developing beer marketing messages and beer brand positions.

Beer Marketing
Today the market is divided mostly by origin and price point.

Beer Marketing
Most microbrews define themselves by their origins or styles

Beer Marketing
To be fair, all the beers brands could be positioned one on top of the other as there is little differentiation

Beer Marketing Summary

All the major domestic beers are, by and large, competing for the same audience with vastly similar messaging. The market skews towards masculine-bawdy. Where are the beer marketing differences? How are they being delivered?

Quality, distinctive taste and better beer belongs to the imports and the micro-brews with some spillover into the specialty mass brews of Killians, Red Dog Blue Moon and the like.

Therefore, to claim a position as the superior tasting beer is in violation of rule 7 (integrity). It simply is not believable.

Like most mature markets, the beer marketing messages need to trade off personality and brand image rather than product benefit. After all, no one prefers a beer that they do not like. Taste or even a promise of better taste is not an effective lever to take market share.

Inside-out and Outside-in

Let’s dig deeper to accurately find positions that have the most meaning to customers and provide a market opportunity. Think about beer marketing from an inside-out perspective (how the beer brand presents itself) and an outside-in prospect perspective (how the customer feels about the brand).

Beer Marketing Implications

The most successful and powerful beer advertising of the past 10 years has toyed with this position. Bud’s anthemic “This Bud’s for you” and the original “Miller Time” campaign from years back found home in this quadrant. In today’s market, the closest player to this position is Corona, which has been one of the strongest and fastest growing beers in the import market.

Behavior Modeling Analysis

beerpres_b42_355To ensure that this beer marketing position has true and important meaning to the audience, we thought through the process (what it is customers think beer does), purpose (what the result of that process is) and the precept (what are the fundamental beliefs of the audiences that leads them to think that is the process). That brings us to the ruling precepts that are the most basic and critical precepts that motivate this audience. As you can see, a brand that fits into the sophisticated/intimate/confident position will appeal to this market ? and steal market share.

From our Behavior Modeling (Read more about it here) analysis we came up with the following precepts that support our market audit.

The Beer Marketing Prime Position

X beer is an authentic great tasting American beer for those of us that don’t need to follow the crowd.

Beer Opportunity.001

“This is the confident beer for those of us who know exactly where we stand. Some things in the world simply need no explanations. Good judgment has great rewards. Discriminating and smart enough to avoid trends and ads. Nourishes the spirit without pretense.”