Why “Beer for the ladies” will never work
There are a number of briefs that refuse to die in the world of beer innovation. Low alcohol beer. “Better for you” beer. And beer for women.
The opportunity is obvious. Beer under-indexes against women and in a category that is at best flat and more often than not, in decline, why wouldn’t you go for such a huge under-leveraged audience? And I wouldn’t argue against that. But here’s the rub. This is a category growth opportunity. Why is innovation the answer?
Simple. It isn’t.
The problem with trying to answer this question from an innovation start point is that people have been only too keen to answer the question: What’s wrong with lager?
- Too bloating. Tick – we can make it low bloat.
- Too masculine. Tick – let’s put it in a more shapely feminine bottle, make the liquid pink and put some flowers on the label.
- Too bitter and polarising a flavour? Tick – let’s make it reminiscent of spritzer or another flavour we know women like.
So this thinking goes: if you lead the horse to water, eventually she will drink lager. But why? If I wanted a low bloat, feminine sweet tasting product, I’d drink spritzer. Oh no, wait a second, my wife already does.
It leads innovators to get hung up on symptoms – not cause. It reached its apogee when I saw coverage of one of the recent spate of ill-fated attempts to entice women into lager, claiming in its press release that the reason they had gone for a bottle was because women were worried about having their drinks spiked. Are you serious? Designing a product with the express benefit that it is slightly trickier to have your drink spiked? Wow, that’s a night out to look forward to. I’ll have 3…
Innovation has to get people actively desiring something – it is not enough to just overcome the negatives that people have. That just means I can no longer give you a reason I don’t want to do something – it doesn’t mean I have a reason to want to do something.
So what is the answer? Well you could do worse than look at Magners.
Yes it was innovation – but tell me what about this was designed to get women to drink it?
It’s in a big brown glass bottle. The bottle serve size is over a pint. It is served in a big pint glass. The design is strong, bold and masculine. That’s not a product designed from a start point of expressly appealing to women.
Surprising? Not even slightly – the whole premise was how to get men back into cider. So why did (and probably still do) women flock to it in the droves?
Because of the image. Magners genius was the unisex imagery they put around it – telling everyone here is a drink that everyone in your social circle can drink. No misogyny here. This is for you, your girlfriends and your boyfriends. Suddenly the product execution pales into the background because people have a reason to want to drink it. It becomes desirable. And you know what; desire can overcome an awful lot of product shortcomings…
So what can beer do? Do root and branch analysis of the execution of how the category talks, walks and drinks. Review every touchpoint and see how it can become more aspirationally unisex. Not masculine. Not feminine. No division lines. Don’t worry about actively attracting women. Just try not to completely alienate them as has happened for the last 50 years. Focus on the imagery and comms both above and below the line and be ruthless in challenging the norms that have built up over so long
And don’t even think about writing an innovation brief to solve the problem.
By Simon Garnett, Managing Director, US