LONDON: UK consumers regard beer brands as being on a par with sectors like telecoms and financial services and it is this, rather than any issues surrounding price or health, that is the reason for declining sales, a leading industry figure has contended.

"Beer brands aren't resilient enough," Damian Symons, managing director at branding agency Clear, said in Marketing. "They simply aren't connecting enough with consumers and as a result, they aren't creating enough value".

He pointed to the findings of Clear's recent Brand Desire study, which asked more than 20,000 consumers over a three-year period how they thought, felt and acted towards brands.

While luxury and not-for-profit brands topped the rankings, beer languished near the bottom, with only financial services, energy and tobacco below it. The reason, said Symons, was that consumers saw beers as all being the same.

"All lagers are cool and sociable; all ales are reassuring and respected. No difference means no real choice, and no real choice means no connection to consumers," he argued.

The survey showed that only one brand, Guinness, recorded a higher than average desirability score in the UK. Clear said this highlighted an "incredible disconnect" for a category associated with fun and social occasions.

Symons also cited BrewDog as an example of a beer brand that had managed to stand out and make gains, with constant innovation and a "punk ethos" that gave it cut-through.

People needed a reason to buy a particular beer beyond it having a refreshing taste, he said, suggesting that brands needed to have an inspiring ambition that extended further than getting people to relax or have a good time.

A distinctive personality was also vital, Symons maintained: "The clearer you are about who you are and the more coherent you are across touchpoints, the more memorable and desirable your brand will be."

He also advised a focus on innovations that support the brand's purpose, an example being Stella's move to a more sophisticated, feminine positioning with the introduction of Cidre and Stella 4.

Data sourced from Marketing, Clear; additional content by Warc staff