Part-time philosopher and full-time drinker, Homer Simpson, once noted “beer is the cause and solution to all of life's problems,” and it seems he’s right on both counts – at least when it comes to the US brewing industry this summer. The $100 billion industry is staggering into the critical selling season with the industry in its weakest position in years. Sales for the 11 biggest brands are down and only 4 of the top 30 are posting any gains at all.
Despite massive media support, the big brewers have seen their leading “lights” – Bud Light, Coors Light and Miller Lite – shares decline. Bud Light is down nearly 6%, the first negative year in the brand's 28-year history. MillerCoors’ Coors Light and Miller Lite, down 0.5% and 8% respectively.
Brewers are trying everything this summer from juiced-up spending to line extensions to special bottles, hoping to somehow engage consumers and slow the declines. And returning their brands to growth mode might just drive the brand managers themselves to drink. Unemployment levels are correlating with consumers (mostly younger and minorities) drinking less beer and, thus, the industry shipping less beer (-4%). And in many cases, consumers are opting for bargain brews, or saving their money to splurging on “craft” beers.
Leveraging loyalty – and achieving real engagement – could help ease some of the pain. Loyal customers are six times more likely to buy more of your products and rebuff competitive offers – especially price-based offers – and interesting packaging. According to our Customer Loyalty Engagement Index, currently, the top-3 Light Beers are Keystone Light, Busch Light, and Coors Light. The top-3 Regular Beers are Pabst Blue Ribbon, Sam Adams, and Corona, so brewers can at least raise a glass to them.
And if you can get the loyalty part of the equation right, you don’t necessarily have to spend as much money playing consumer ‘catch-up.’ When you have engaged consumers, you have consumers in active mode where, and while they may believe a beer can be judged with only one sip, they also feel it’s better to be thoroughly sure!