Alcohol-content messaging: A short history
There was a time when this sort of advertising gambit would have been nixed by government regulators before it ever made it into print. But in a way, it's sort of fitting that MillerCoors is the brewer pushing high-alcohol content now.
Back in 1987, it was Coors that sued the federal government to end a longstanding restriction, and permit alcohol-content to appear on beer labels. The legal argument back then was that commercial free-speech was being violated by the ban. So Coors submitted a label showing its alcohol content (around 4% at the time) for federal government approval, and it was promptly rejected. Game on.
Never pointed out by Coors in court was their real motivation for wanting alcohol numbers on their labels: eliminating a competitive disadvantage. At the time, beer drinkers thought all Coors beers were lower in alcohol than Budweiser or Miller High Life, and getting the ABV numbers on the label would show that wasn't so. The federal courts ruled in Coors' favor, but in the end, the brewery--fearing pressure from the likes of Mothers Against Drunk Driving--chose not to take the next step of actually promoting alcohol-content on their labels.
Happy New Year!
Just in time for New Year's Eve festivities, the latest Milwaukee's Best billboards went up in several markets (Milwaukee and Northern Indiana, to name two). The message: A red-letter celebration of high alcohol content. And how better to display this sort of message than alongside interstate highways, just in time to lure New Year's Eve shoppers on their way to the beer store before celebrating?!?
In so doing, Milwaukee's Best makes a larger, and--forgive the pun--more potent point. Although not in so many words, the unexpectedly high alcohol content--nearly 50% higher than regular beer--communicates an underlying message as unsubtle as it is irresponsible...
To give the devil his due, this is product distinctiveness, a strategy for which we have long advocated.
Sadly in this case, it's also socially repugnant.