Lazy marketers are big supporters of line extensions. "It's easy volume," they'll tell you. "There's no risk." And "It always looks good on your resumé."
Wrong. Wrong. And wrong.
Launched with fanfare earlier this year at MillerCoors' distributor convention, Coors Light Summer Brew was big news for the coming season. Just as the Silver Bullet's momentum was starting to fade, here comes the "innovation" of a quick line extension designed by the marketing folks to siphon volume from soft drinks. It would mean new money for their beer distributors. What's not to like?
This is a no-brainer.
This hat trick of stupidity has rarely been as dramatically-- or as quickly-- demonstrated as by the line extension born of a lemon, Coors Light Summer Brew. Even before one season ends, inventory is clogging shelves. According to published reports* some Wal-Mart stores are cutting prices of 12-packs to $3.88, before a $3 coupon.
Do the math: That's 7¢-a-can.
The MillerCoors CEO, using the turgid language only corporate big-shots employ, called it: "renovating core scale brands to increase their relevance." But where was the critical thinking CEOs are supposed to possess? If Coors Light needed a lift, wouldn't it be wise to first address its "relevance" issues directly?
When an organization instead chooses to invest effort behind a line extension, that effort must come from somewhere. Sales-execution is a zero-sum game, so new items rob attention from other brands. And in the end, every line extension steals sales disproportionately from its parent brand for a simple reason: The people most likely to try something new with "Coors Light" on it, are those already most familiar with Coors Light. What exactly is the point of encouraging loyal drinkers to become triers of some new beer they may find unpalatable? Are they then more likely to come back... or just move on?
Well, what did we lose, really?
Coors Light Summer Brew will be quietly buried. No one will get fired, because doing so would only draw attention to the organization's all-out commitment to a bad idea. The marketers at the brewery will console each other saying nothing was really lost.
Truth is, lots was lost.
A full season of focus on the struggling parent brand is gone forever. The sales organization's diminished confidence in the marketing gurus who told them this was all a good idea, will only make future selling efforts more difficult. Distributors who paid MillerCoors one price for their inventory, and then had no choice but to sell it to retailers for much less, know exactly how much they've lost. And those retailers, seeing a Coors Light product going out the door for 44-cents a six, will rightly wonder if the Silver Bullet has completely lost its mojo. That perception may be the biggest loss of all.
In so many ways, it turns out, Coors Light Summer Brew really was... a no-brainer.