Miller Fortune down 36% YTD
and 74% for 4 weeks."
Beer Marketers Insights, April 2, 2015
No doubt the MillerCoors folks would now like to see this brand pass quietly. A nighttime burial in their graveyard of failed brands. One more for the crowded family plot, alongside the likes of New Miller Beer, Miller Lite Ice, Miller Clear and Miller Genuine Draft Light.
Not so fast.
Who pushed this abject failure? Somebody must be responsible. Heck, if the brand was growing by leaps and bounds, there'd be no shortage of folks claiming responsibility. Miller Fortune may appear to be an orphan now, but failure always has parents.
Here are MillerFortune's...
The desperate-for-a-positive-legacy CEO.
Less than a year ago, an interview in the Milwaukee newspaper telegraphed just how desperate he was for a success on his fading watch. Said he of an idea he had reportedly shoved to market:
"(The MillerCoors CEO) credits the success of Miller Fortune to its marketing campaigns and getting the product to market quickly with the fastest distribution in MillerCoors’ history.”
The MillerCoors CEO is now departing the company at age 56. Chances are, Miller Fortune won't be served at his going-away party.
Not only was he new to his "innovation" job, the MillerCoors new-product guy had zero experience in beer. Lots of marketing people outside the category think the beer business is easy. And in those cases where some of them have come into the business and shot from the hip, they've generally departed without success. Deja vu? Selling vacuum cleaners is just easier.
The marketing honcho.
A top marketing guy ought to be orchestrating marketing strategy. He should be the company's marketing thought-leader, and its final judge of what's good and what isn't. So when someone proposes selling a malt-liqour-like beer brand as though it actually was something of a liquor brand, serving it in liquor "rocks" glasses, he ought to have terminated such a self-evidently bad idea. Instead, a year ago, this honcho bragged to the New York Times that Miller Fortune was "the largest launch of a new product" by the company. Think he'll now grant another interview proclaiming it "the largest failure?"
The distributor sales guys.
For the most part, the distributor guys bear little blame. They quickly got Miller Fortune to its ambitious distribution goals. It wasn't their fault the brand's premise had no appeal. Still, had the distributors shown the courage to challenge the brand idea when it was first presented (as they have reportedly done recently to nix Coors Light's new advertising), they could've aborted Miller Fortune. So they, too, have blame to bear.
The first ad agency.
MillerCoors fired the agency that--with MillerCoors direction and approval--created the brand's launch advertising. Timeless truth: "Clients get the advertising they deserve." Still, great ad agencies stand up to flawed client direction. Round-heeled agencies deserve blame.
The second ad agency.
Changing agencies is frequently a client's way of saying, "See, the agency screwed up." These same clients never mention that they personally approved the ads. When MillerCoors changed ad agencies on Miller Fortune less than a year into the launch, it was a clear and desperate sign the market was voting thumbs-down. Apparently, the second agency got no better direction than the first, because it's next-to-impossible to tell which agency did which bad ad.
The faceless and gutless market researchers.
A layman might read all this and reasonably ask: "Don't they do any market research to avoid disasters like this?" Of course they do. If it hasn't already been consigned to the shredders at MillerCoors headquarters, there is most certainly consumer-acceptance research which would convince any reasonable person--or any person without their own self-serving agenda--that Miller Fortune was a dud. In the best companies, these market-research people give management a reality check. In lesser companies, they're ignored. And in the worst, they're content being ignored.
Last June, we speculated on what lay ahead for Miller Fortune. No independent observer we spoke to at the time or since, disagreed.
Still, we take no joy in being right.