We recently received an email from one of our readers, a former executive at MillerCoors. The points made were so thoughtful, so compelling we are quoting substantial excerpts without editing. (We did add the photos, captions, and the headlines.) We are also respecting the author's request for anonymity.
I've been struggling to succinctly explain what is the root cause of MillerCoors' (Coors Light specifically) problems based on all the different stories I've heard and actions I've seen. I've received multiple inquiries about this and have sought diplomatic or academic explanations.
I was lamenting my heartfelt concerns to a MillerCoors person, and he said, "Why do you care? You care more than anyone else there." And there was my clarity. So simple. So powerful. Nobody really cares about Coors Light.
I think this is a larger challenge for the big brewers in general, but it's easier to demonstrate with Coors Light. I suggest you examine this notion of "Does anyone really care?" about the brands they work on. I believe this is a serious problem that's not easy to identify. I drafted this story to illustrate my point. It was cathartic for me, but perhaps is useful or thought-provoking for your blog. You may use as much as you wish. Please leave my name out of it.
Does anyone really care?
Jim Koch cares. August Busch III used to care. Pete Coors cares, but can he get anyone else to care at MillerCoors? Can big brewers hire people who passionately care about their brands as if they were their own?
Craft brands do this well. A craft founder rallies people to share in creating a common story. It’s easy to sell because they believe it, because they were part of it. Even if people leave, a legacy culture exists to guide the way for new employees that makes it easier to commit.
Coors Light is a good example to test this thesis because when it was just Coors Brewing Company, 80% of the volume was Coors Light, so people had to care for pragmatic reasons. If Coors Light didn’t grow, everyone was in trouble. But the brand and agency people were also sitting in Golden, Colorado, looking at the Rockies every day, watching beer trucks roll out of the world’s largest brewery, and Pete or Bill Coors would walk by and say, “hello.” You could feel the history since 1873. Employees bonded to fight a foe 5 times bigger, and there wasn’t another employer right around the corner where you ran to "build your resume." You became a “beer person” and a “Coors Person.”
But now Coors Light sits in a Chicago office building with no brewery in sight. Turnover is high and beer knowledge is low. Maybe the company attracts the best and brightest and it’s an advantage. But does anyone care? Here’s a quiz to find out:
2. How many of the Coors Light brand team have spent time in Golden, Colorado, studying how Coors Light is brewed?
3. Is Coors Light a destination assignment, or a brand rotation?
4. Do the marketing people have Coors Light in their fridge at home?
5. Are they embarrassed to tell their friends they drink light beer?
6. Has the Coors Light team ever met Pete Coors, and asked him about the brand’s history, and what makes it special?
7. When they attend work functions or dinners, do they drink cocktails or wine? (August Busch used to fire people for this.)
8. How many years of consecutive growth did Coors Light have driving Rocky Mountain Cold Refreshment? (answer: 8 years).
9. What brand used to have the tag line,“Get out of the old and into the cold”? What happened when they walked away from it?
Remember, getting only half of these questions correct is an F grade.
Do they even care?
But to paraphrase our erstwhile reader, does BigBeer even care?