Read this: Beer Ads That Portray Women as Empowered Consumers, Not Eye Candy.

Then return to read my post.

I don’t yet have the pleasure of having talked to Mr. Schonbrun, since I was not contacted by him for this piece, and I’ve already ticked off some others. So be it. The voices of others not represented and fully acknowledged weren’t even included in this article: female beer consumers and buyers.

Here’s what I agree with from Mr. Schonbrun’s article.

  • It’s good he’s writing about a topic which, sadly, should have been equalized millenia ago. I thank him for bringing to light a matter of gender equity. Yes, women + beer is about equity, not about beer at all in the big scheme of things.
  • A publication of such note and influence internationally like the New York Times is a great place to share information, insight and knowledge.
  • He contacted some interesting sources to cite and quote. Not knowing his record of accuracy in work, I’ll assume he’s sound in his practices to be accurate and careful. And I appreciate his efforts to seemingly accurately put forth with his sources shared with him.

I sincerely hope it gets a lot of people talking about how poorly beer represents women and I hope the many woman who tell others to “relax and have a beer” about this rethink their glib attitudes. Indeed, did they have relatives and loved ones in their family & friend trees who died in human rights struggles to so carelessly tell me to chill? More importantly I hope it moves you to action. Stand up, step up, speak up.

The article opens:

“For years, one of the main criticisms of beer advertising was that it tended to either objectify women or disregard them entirely. Marketers seemed to be too busy trying to appeal to the young male audience they knew would consistently drink beer by the case to worry about anyone else.

Now, that appears to be changing.”

As an impatient optimist, I’d like to believe this statement. However I’m skeptical. I’m skeptical by the fact that we’re still myopic when it comes to gender, that people still judge ability on sex when it’s such a ludicrous idea.

I’m skeptical because I know that companies everywhere, of all goods & services including beer, would be better off to throw off the yoke of sexism and embrace people of all makes and models as their potential audience. How could conditions not improve by opening minds to opportunity and education? That’s the crux of the issue here, not beer.

I’m skeptical because so many articles and pieces which influence thinking are monolithic. Beer isn’t monolithic, women aren’t monolithic, business isn’t monolithic and brands aren’t monolithic even though some of them have put way too many of their own eggs in one basket. Nothing is monolithic except true monoliths, like these. To lump everything of every category into one narrow window of definition is dangerous for everyone.

Skepticism is joined by astonishment as the article continues:

” ‘It was fine to show a frat party making fun of girls five or eight years ago,’ Mr. Adamson said. ‘But it’s ineffective and potentially damaging to do today.’ “

Mr. Adamson is the former chairman of the brand consulting firm Landor Associates. Let’s ponder his comments for a moment.

First of all, the actual definition of a ‘girl’ = a female child. It’s denigrating to have someone who is supposed to be in a position of impact and authority start off with a gross indicator of disrespect. Women & females are appropriate and full respect titles; girls are girls and they are different. It’s easy to get it right. He got it wrong.

Next, it was never ‘fine’ and has never been fine nor will it ever be fine. He’s telling the world that it’s okay to disrespect, dismiss, and in general dis women outright and accept and welcome the ‘frat party’ humor that reduces us all. Mr. Adamson needs to work at a women’s abuse shelter for a bit of reality of how much farther we still need to go to develop gender equity.

Enter David Kroll.

“The number [of female beer drinkers] astounded David Kroll, who became chief marketing officer at MillerCoors in July. “Disappointing,” Mr. Kroll said in an interview, “that we weren’t speaking to women.”

I find it astounding that Mr. Kroll, in this global role, is so apparently clueless to the true state of marketing to women. Maybe I’ll send him a copy of Marti Barletta’s book as education. How does someone inserted into the role of the head of a global brand company ascend with such ignorance? How can one be astounded when the fact is that females are herstorically over half of the global human population*? How can a massive business be so self-blind to the fact that women make 75 – 85% of all purchases, across categories? How is that even possible?

“The thought of being fully inclusive to women, when you speak to millennials, they’re like, ‘Yeah, duh,’ ” Mr. Kroll said. “In some respects, beer is just catching up to the millennial mind-set.”

No, Mr. Kroll. The reality is beer of all size isn’t paying attention to the full range of the drinking age population. See above*. All you seem to be concerned with is sticking to and trying to stitch & mend a brand which hasn’t changed with the times. Strong brands are always evaluating the landscape; many beer companies of all sizes continue to focus on the young male, which is foolish, short sighted, outmoded and will eventually sink ships. That’s your aha moment right there.

And then there’s this from Heineken.

“Heineken has recently appealed to “moderate drinkers” with a new ad that suggests modern women will be more attracted to men who drink less. The latest commercial, one of three since the campaign began in 2011, features women singing the Bonnie Tyler song “I Need a Hero” as they walk away from ostensibly inebriated men.”

Newsflash: Women who enjoy drinking beer don’t need men to do it or even sanction their own activities. That’s archaic thinking. And who the heck says women ‘need a hero’ in a man? (How do lesbians think about all this by the way?) This idea only perpetuates the ‘need’ for women to have men. It only underscores the inaccurate shoring up of the false ground that females need males. Women need to be strong women in their own right. The irony is that beer ads targeted towards men don’t indicate a ‘need’ for them to have smart women. Good grief! This just gets more ridiculous…

“Some brands have also introduced new products to attract women in recent years, though results have been mixed. In 2011, for instance, Molson Coors introduced a “bloat resistant” beer called Animée that came in different flavors and colors, while the Carlsberg Group created a gender-neutral beer called Copenhagen with a minimalist aesthetic that resembled a sleek bottle of white wine. Both were short-lived.”

This makes me want to laugh out loud – and laugh I must as the sheer idiocy of the apparent brand think of Molson Coors and Carlsberg. The key here is they are clearly NOT doing market research to find out what women of varied vantage points want from their relationship with beer. I’ve done 7+ years of qualitative research talking and listening directly to women all over the USA (with some international voices chiming in, happily) and it’s never once come from a women that she wants a “bloat resistant” beer. If Molson Coors, Heineken, Carlsberg, ANYONE wants to know what women want, they need to directly ask women with no brand influence to speak up.

The whole Copenhagen campaign – where did that come from? It would seem to me Carlsberg should have marketed that towards wine lovers if it was modeled after a “sleek bottle of white wine” (and does red wine feel left out here?).

If they did that, if they really asked women what they want from beer, why they do and don’t engage, they will find a treasure trove of insight – useful immediately impactful insight from women who are eager to be heard. And not lumped or grouped. It makes me wonder, do males resent being lumped in the frat party stereotype like many women hate the T&A?

The truly sad part of seeing this about Carlsberg is the fact that they have some brilliant marketing out there – wow!! It’s right on with humor, focusing on the beer, and really tapping into the beer drinkers enthusiasm. How did it go so drastically off kitler?

We are all more than the sum of our parts. We are our brains, our taste buds, our beliefs. We are all different and all unique and therefore this article is a real (good) slap in the face to get people thinking about women and beer.

Anheuser-Busch, on the other hand, has had some success with its fruit-tasting Bud Light Lime Rita range since 2012. Hard ciders grew 13 percent in 2015, while other flavored malt beverages gained 10 percent, according to Nielsen. “

This paragraph seems to stand alone, perhaps by inference in its placement in the article the author is stating that ABI has been marketing the above products towards women; though I don’t want to assume. It’s an absolute ball of hogwash to think that women are first attracted to fruit & sweet and that they should be sold cider & FMB’s. What an insult to everyone’s intelligence to think that. It’s long been recorded that all humans go towards sweet flavors, base don our preherstoric need to survive, thus looking at caloric rich sometimes sweet food sources to survive. Clearly we’re way beyond that….or are we….?  Let’s move on.

“When it comes to gender-neutral advertising, though, the brand consultant Dean Crutchfield says that Coors Light, which has long sought to portray a robust masculinity in its marketing, is taking a considerable risk.

“If you alienate your core, your credibility and relevance tumbles,” Mr. Crutchfield said. “It’s about your brand, your heritage, your past and your future. It’s been all wrapped around the males. To suddenly unwrap that, it does carry risk.”

First of all, where did the idea come from that beer has any gender to it at all? Women have long been the worlds brewers as well as consumers. We drank beer originally to boil away harmful nasties in water to make it safe to drink and somewhere along the way we developed the rut of think that Beer Is For Men. It’s illogical and unfounded. Secondly, we’re only doing a disservice to men who drink beer here as well. Really? Yes, really. If the pressure on men is that need to drink, guzzle and otherwise be the primary beer drinkers, then we’ve just shot a lot of flavor opportunities in the foot, as well as disrespected men in the process.

I agree with Mr Crutchfield in that alienating your core market is risky. That said, if the brands would have and would now recognize who is doing the majority buying and address that person, then they’d build their own safety net. Market share takes commitment to build, develop and nurture. To upend those who have stood by you is bad business. However it’s worse business to purposefully ignore those who are actually doing the shoring up of the brand: the buyers, who in this case and many, are women. Where the heck are you acknowledging her?

It isn’t sudden for women to be drinking beer. It’s been going on as long as here have been humans making beer. It’s not sudden to turn a corner to better market your brands to address, acknowledge and purse females in various ways. Risky – maybe, though it’s sheer stupidity by choice if you stay a course which isn’t working. Steer away from the rocks, find the open sea. Remember: none of this is monolithic.

Which brings us to Ms. Dougherty, whom I’ve read about previously.

“Britt Dougherty, MillerCoors’s senior director of marketing insights, says that women rarely self-identify as beer drinkers, and that beer companies have not done a good job trying to recruit them. According to Ms. Dougherty’s estimates, a more gender-friendly advertising approach could add from five million to nine million barrels to the industry’s sales in the United States over the next five years.

“It takes time to undo that baggage,” she said.

She really needs to get out and be among women and ask them how they self identify, because it’s obvious to me she’s not even doing that yet stating as much. She’s right when she says beer companies have not done a good job recruiting them, for sure! And – with a nod to Jackie – all beer companies are in this pool, size doesn’t matter here. We simply think the Bigs are guilty, smalls are guiltless because we see the wide spread campaigns of the bigs and not the smalls.

The Statement of Miff here is this: “We’ve represented a version of masculinity that wasn’t appealing to women.” Seriously. Why are you trying to appeal to women by marketing to men? That’s what this statement tells me and of course it’s absolutely the wrong tact. We don’t market tampons to men who care about women, we don’t talk about eldercare with teenagers with grandparents. If this is her vantage point, I’d be glad to meet with her over a beer and discuss.

And finally, to satisfy Ms. Dodd’s question of what I took offense to, here she is in closing the article:

“Jackie Dodd, who runs the popular cooking and beer blog The Beeroness, said she felt that craft beers, or microbrews, had always been about community and collaboration, including male and female brewers.

“I don’t think craft beer ever marketed towards women, they just valued them and that conveyed,” Ms. Dodd wrote in an email. “I’m not sure macro can do that, or even knows how. But if they can, more power to them.”

I’ve no beef with Ms. Dodd. As a comrade in kitchen pursuits, I appreciate her inventiveness and yes, Jackie, we are all entitled to our own opinions. So you get to respect mine like I’ll respect yours.

What smacked of incredulity is the fact you are using terms which aren’t helpful, in fact damaging, to the beer universe in general, macro & microbrews among them; ‘craft’ is a useful word in the industry but confusing and ill applied in the consumer world. Plus your so-called “microbreweries” are just as bad at sexism as any larger capacity brands. Take a quick internet search break and google sexist beer ads; tell me what you come up with and from which breweries of what size. I say let’s just call it beer.

And finally the subtle back-handed complement: But if they can, more power to them.” Size has nothing to do with ability.

So, there you have my take. This was overdue in coming forth.

Thank you Mr. Schonbrun for your piece; please be in touch with me when I may be at your service as a singular resource with a much deeper pool of insight on women and beer. Same goes for all the others in the article. You’ve certainly fired up my resolve to keep at my endeavors to educate and enlighten. I’ll buy the first beer the next time we are in the same room.

Now, back to my book draft on women and why they drink beer…..onward. Cheers.

Categories: Assumptions & Myth Busting, Beer, Marketing, Something To Think About, Women and Beer

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