The Opportunity in the Beer Category

The Beer Category. Is there opportunity?

Beer Category. Introduction

Please note that this beer category study has been updated and revised. You can view the NEW market study here.

The following glance at the beer market will give you a quick peak into how Stealing Share operates. And although this is just a cursory analysis, it will recommend a brand position beer brands can take to steal share based on our own experience and expertise in branding beer brands. If your brand needs to steal share, feel free to email us here or call us at 336.389.9315.


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Keeping each of these ads and all the other 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) in mind, it’s important to start by briefly describing the personality, position and promise of each of the brands.

Budweiser Confident, hip King of Beers Be part of the crowd that “gets in”
Miller Lite Cool, hip, young The Beer for Friends Our drinkers experience
Coors Light Cool, hip, (sophomoric) Cold. From The Rockies Makes you cooler (not-snobs)
MGD Cool, aloof Genuine Take the opportunity as it happens
Miller High Life Aloof The High Life Keep everything in perspective
Coors Real, confident, legendary The original Drink Coors and be an original
Michelob Cool, knowing Tastes like an import Imported ingredients mean better taste


Possible Meanings

When mapping out the beer category landscape, we chose the positions that a beer brand could take based on the ads. 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.” Therefore, “best” simply isn’t believable to the customer nor does it present a true choice. 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:


the beer category

Rules of Positioning & Rebranding


The following rules are helpful when selecting a 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. 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.

The Current Market

Next, we map out graphically how the major beer brands see themselves in the beer category. To check if there’s a position ready for the taking. (Read how to analyze a position here)


the beer category as it is defined currently


the beer category from a different point of view


another look at the beer category


the beer category as defined today


Market Summary of the Beer Category

All the major domestic beers are, by and large, playing for the same audience with similar messaging. And, the market skews bawdy. Quality, distinctive taste and better beer belongs to the imports and micro-brews with some spill over into the specialty mass brews of Killians, Red Dog and the like. 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 major mass marketed beers need to trade off personality and brand image rather than product benefit.The beer category MUST seem believable.

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, let’s look at two more graphs: One that maps out the marketplace from an inside-out perspective (how the beer brand presents itself) and an outside-in perspective (how the customer feels about the brand).


the opportunity in the beer category


Market Implications

The most successful and powerful beer category 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.

Update: Corona Extra is now the the fifth-best selling beer in America. For an import, that’s astonishing.


Behavior Modeling Analysis

To ensure that this 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 3P’s analysis we came up with the following precepts that support our market audit.


beer category through behavior modeling


The Position

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.

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