October 23, 2011

TV can do a lot of great things for brands but it can also make you impotent--and I can assure you that I did not intend to spell "important."  And that is what one is led to conclude after reading some of the reports coming out of last week's beer distributors' convention in Las Vegas. As I've often remarked at marketing conferences where I've presented, one of the benefits of working in an industry that for a long time was shut out of TV advertising--the spirits industry--is that you're forced to be more creative.  And it's such creativity that appears to have had so many beer industry executives wallowing in their suds in Las Vegas. And wallowing for good reason.  According to industry data, beer sales are down 1.5% in the last year while spirits sales are up 3.2%. But one assessment presented in Las Vegas appears to have it all wrong.  A beer company CEO stated that "it's apparent they (spirits companies) have read the beer-marketing book and they've been borrowing pretty liberally from it."  Say what? Au contraire, I would submit to anyone that spirits companies have for a long time been forced to be more innovative than beer companies because they haven't had the luxury of being able to spend liberally on TV advertising.  It's more a case that the spirits industry has given nary a look to the "beer-marketing book." Sure one can point to the bad economy as the culprit, but on average the beer segment is at a lower price-point than the spirits segment.  So, if there's a category that should be growing when the going has gotten tough it's the beer business. For beer marketers, English-language and Spanish-language TV has become their crack, and has numbed them.  I mean when was the last time you saw a TV ad for Starbucks?  For Facebook? TV may still reign supreme as a medium but emotional engagement has become the imperative.  And superior creativity reflected in bold content stems from NOT being addicted to that supreme medium called TV.  Substance abuse can lead to ugly consequences.  TV abuse can lead to the kind of stunted growth that has plagued not only the beer industry but other categories as well.

Comments

great blog entry, manny. as another spirits industry alum who's spent a twenty-year career attached in some way to the category, i'd have to agree that we've been forced to be more creative with our marketing dollars, given not only the self-imposed albeit responsible restrictions we've placed on ourselves, but also given we've had only a fraction of the budgets that beer brands are allocated to create noise. that said, i do believe we've learned a lot from beer, especially when it comes to what happens inside the store where the rubber meets the proverbial road. according to many shopper studies, nearly three-quarters of purchase decisions are made inside retail, despite brand affinity or what's happening on the airwaves. i don't know the numbers specifically for the spirits category, but i have to believe that our shoppers are being influenced at similar rates. we have to be willing to admit that we've learned a lot from our beer, and other packaged good comrades, about the influence of having solid distributor and retailer relationships, impactful in-store merchandising programs, and out-of-aisle cross-promotions. we've even followed their lead into retail windows that we never thought we could play in -- super bowl, nascar, fourth of july and halloween to name a few. i think we should give credit where credit is due, and we have to be willing to admit that the spirits industry has learned a lot from the "beer marketing book". that said, it shouldn't stop us from continuing to do what we've been doing and kicking their butt while we do it. salud!

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