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Women and beer: Let’s ask a woman

Women drinking beerI’m not sure (and neither is he) how Stephen Beaumont’s BeerTrends for 2008 #3: Chicks Dig Beer is going to turn out, but it looks like writing about marketing to women is a trend in the making. Witness:

“6 women, 6 decades, 6 beers,” at brewvana, which is not about marketing but how women perceive beer. Something marketers need to read.

Lew Bryson wrote about “One of the beer industry’s biggest oversights: not marketing to women.” And several beer blogs quickly cheered his suggestion beer execs make 2008 the year they discover women.

Beaumont chimed in to vote for the idea, but added the disclaimer: “Maybe it will happen this year, and maybe (more probably) it won’t.”

American Brewer magazine arrived with a story by Alan Moen headlined, “The Female Factor: Marketing Beer to Women.”

– Fort George Brewery announced a Craft Beer Appreciation Workshop for Women with Lisa Morrison, which pretty much brings us full circle. Lisa has been beating this drum longer and louder than most.

In fact, I sent her and e-mail shortly after Lew’s piece appeared to ask if it felt like this is something we’ve been talking about a long time.

“For us, yes. What Lew says has been said before,” she wrote back. “But it bears repeating until there’s actually a change.”

And then she reminded me why she’s known as the “Beer Goddess”:

“I don’t necessarily think beer should be marketed to women or men. Ads featuring women quaffing beer while scantily clad men hover around them is just as silly as the Twins/Swedish Bikini/babe of the day marketing we’ve been subjected to for decades. I certainly don’t think we need to start marketing beer ‘to’ women.”

An image comes to mind that we don’t want to see in a Bud Light commercial during he Super Bowl.

18 Responses to Women and beer: Let’s ask a woman

  1. Lew Bryson January 24, 2008 at 7:57 am #

    There’s always a risk when you’re a man writing about women… Women are marketed to all the time, and I don’t know why beer would be any different. Anheuser-Busch has pointed out to me that they are indeed marketing beer to women: they have a series of Mich Ultra ads that show women in a serious angle. Okay. I’m not for sexist ads in either direction.

    I’d love to see more marketing focused on what’s IN the glass, rather than what’s wrapped around it, or floats in the mind about it, marketing that aims at the beer drinker, not the male or female beer drinker. But after talking to a bunch of beer marketers and salesfolk the past two days, and hearing what they have to say to the chain restaurant beverage managers here at the Cheers conference…I don’t see much of that happening any time soon. There is more of it going on in craft beer, and that’s good — always has been — does anyone have any figures on how much of craft beer sales are consumed by women?

  2. SteveH January 24, 2008 at 8:24 am #

    “I’d love to see more marketing focused on what’s IN the glass,”

    I think your friend Jim Koch is on this track.

  3. Alan January 24, 2008 at 9:00 am #

    Yes those ads are good and focus on flavour – but could Sam Adams not do a better job of making sure, for example, in the TV ads they have quoting beer fans and their favorite brew that 50% of the beer fans being highlighted are women…and that they are being asked about what they link in the glass? I am pretty sure that women are included but they are still pretty male focused pieces. Hey – could you even have an ad with 80% women and something other than manly man George Thorogood playing? What might that look like? Joan Jett in the background maybe.

  4. SteveH January 24, 2008 at 9:25 am #

    Alan — I was following Lew’s lead about focusing on what’s IN the glas, not “what’s wrapped around it.” It’s an iconoclastic approach that is marketing to everyone, not just singling out a demographic. A better approach, in my eyes anyway.

    “…and something other than manly man George Thorogood playing? What might that look like? Joan Jett in the background maybe.”

    Uh, not touchin’ that one at all.

  5. Todd January 24, 2008 at 10:00 am #

    If women represent an “untapped” market share, I would imagine that someone will try to “tap” that market share. (Too many tongue in cheek puns?) I wonder what will be the “thrust” of the advertising ideas (besides sexuality). We do have precedence in other markets for including women as new hope for new sales. Look at cigarette ads during the rise of feminism. JOB rolling papers had ads with famous artists depicting classy, confident, beautiful women smoking- a beginning image of feminism. So smoking became tied to being a feminist and having the same rights as a man. What now would be the rally cry for women and beer? History? How about things like women used to be the beer brewers? How about stories about people like Margaretha Gerhardt Burkhardt ( a female brewer from Akron, Ohio)? She and the Burkhardt Brewery story are worth looking up.
    I guess the big hook would be to get Hillary brewing if she wins?
    Or is this about justifying low-hopped, fruity beers that might be cheaper to produce and at least women might like it- that kinda thing?

  6. Alan January 24, 2008 at 11:44 am #

    “…not just singling out a demographic…”

    Huh? The Sam Adams ads I have seen clearly do single out a demographic: the yuppy guy in his late 20s early 30s who wants to pretend he is ever so slightly extreme. Where is the guy in his 40s with a bunch of kids? Where is the tank girl with a tatooed neck? Where is the retied couple? Sam Adams is associating their product as much with one group as a Bud ads does. It’s just that it is another demographic slice of the whole.

    While they do talk about what they like in their glass, there is too much of a similarlity between all the people presented to miss the focus. You may not want to touch it but that is no different from people not wanting to touch marketing to women or minorities or anyone who would not look suited to an LL Bean catalog’s young men’s outerwear section.

  7. SteveH January 24, 2008 at 12:24 pm #

    “The Sam Adams ads I have seen clearly do single out a demographic: the yuppy guy in his late 20s early 30s who wants to pretend he is ever so slightly extreme.”

    LOL! Funny how different people see different perspectives in situations like this.

    I guess I see the commercials as educational, the ones with Jim Koch (he’s over 40, isn’t he?) talking about beer making. I’ll try to pay more attention to all the Sam commercials from now on, but I may not be able to stay attentive.

    BTW — I’d guess you aren’t on the LL Bean mailing list, there is no “young men’s outerwear section,” and most everyone in a Bean catalog is pushing the mid side of 40 or over. Too bad they don’t show the LL Bean beer, but I’d bet it’s brewed in Portland.

  8. Alan January 24, 2008 at 12:32 pm #

    Yes, I suppose that is true. I was going to say J Crew instead but that is no yuppie so much as the Hamptons.

    But I didn’t think from what I know of Koch that he needs his ads to convince himself. I am more thinking of the ones in the serioes where there are a sequence of people saying which Sam Adams beer they like. Each person does focus on the qualities of the beer, which is good, but each is also of that one demographic, you know, the guy who would go to the Beer Adovcate Extreme fest except all those hoppy beers just aren’t quite his thing.

  9. SteveH January 24, 2008 at 1:17 pm #

    “I am more thinking of the ones in the serioes where there are a sequence of people saying which Sam Adams beer they like.

    Haven’t seen those, I was thinking of the spots where they’re talking about hops and how they’re used. Guess maybe the BBC’s marketing company has different demographics in its sites after all.

    BTW — LOL at the J Crew/Hamptons comment!

  10. Christopher January 24, 2008 at 7:14 pm #

    “If women represent an “untapped” market share, I would imagine that someone will try to “tap” that market share.”

    I agree. From what I know of modern advertising, it is always specific. As someone new to the “real” beer scene, perhaps you guys have forgotten that beer is a “alcohol delivery device” for 99% of folks out there. Can you imagine what are ancestors would have thought of the modern cigarette? An amazingly offensive thing next to a fine cigar. Yet, what percentage of the market do fine cigars have? Is it because of a failure to market?

    Now that it is safe to drink the water, I am not sure beer will ever have the place it did in our culture in the past. For most folks, it’s just a way to get alcohol into the system, and the lighter and tasteless the better. Thus all the focus on “the good time”. It’s not about what’s in the glass…

  11. Sarah January 25, 2008 at 11:29 am #

    I’d love to see more marketing focused on what’s IN the glass, rather than what’s wrapped around it, or floats in the mind about it, marketing that aims at the beer drinker, not the male or female beer drinker.

    Amen. It seems like most beer marketing aimed at women is about ‘diet’ beers– it’s light, it’s low carb, it’s fat free, whatever. I have yet to see a beer commercial that appreciates the idea that a woman, like a man, might enjoy the taste of a good beer. (Or a steak, or a cigar…) Don’t we have the same taste buds, after all?

  12. Todd January 25, 2008 at 3:33 pm #

    I have yet to see a beer commercial that appreciates the idea that a woman, like a man, might enjoy the taste of a good beer. (Or a steak, or a cigar…) Don’t we have the same taste buds, after all

    Now that, I believe, was the idea behind the marketing of cigarette smoking to women. The idea of, “not just men, women too”.

    And yes, I do believe that men and women share great things in common and I’m grateful for the differences- I like diversity. I know men and women that like “weaker” beers, but most women I know (that really like beer) want something fairly real or unique. Fruity only seems to go so far?

    Women and beer does have great history and stories. Is that the advertising link that would be helpful to show women drinking great quality beers and ales- historical women brewers that competed in the market with men? Great beer is great beer- why would a man think so more than a woman. I guess the idea is to just show that it’s really “cool” to be a woman that likes great beer, maybe that’d catch on.

  13. sarah January 27, 2008 at 2:33 pm #

    I guess the idea is to just show that it’s really “cool” to be a woman that likes great beer, maybe that’d catch on.

    I hope so. It certainly does make you popular among good-beer-drinking men. 🙂

    I love the idea of using historical women brewers… do you know anything about the history of that? Were nuns brewing alongside monks? That could be fascinating. Cleopatra in a commercial perhaps? 🙂

  14. Carrie January 27, 2008 at 2:36 pm #

    Todd, I love your comments. I really think that an approach like this (the sophisticated cigarette ad approach) is the only way to get women to be interested in beer if they don’t have any other reason to be. Ads that try to bring women in because beers are lower cal/carb, etc. bore me. They’re not focused on the product. They’re focused on “if you’re stuck at a bar and the wine selection stinks, X beer is your best alternative”. If ads featured Chippendales, I’d just be downright insulted.
    I think if beer could market itself as a more sophisticated drink for women, that’d be great. Beer really is a sophisticated drink and there’s no reason for it to not be marketed in such a way. This is a challenge though, because brewers (at least macro-style brewers) tend to play on the idea that beer is a way to get chicks, get away from your nagging wife, get silly with the guys. I think the macro guys have really done a lot of damage. I was recently watching an ad from a Super Bowl ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eF3t0bG3kRM ) a few years ago that was just beyond insulting to me as a wife… How can this be any kind of advertising approach? Who thinks this is a good idea?
    Anyway, I would love to see someone take a crack at a sophisticated women’s (or men’s, for that matter) beer ad.

  15. Stan Hieronymus January 28, 2008 at 11:38 am #

    I love the idea of using historical women brewers… do you know anything about the history of that? Were nuns brewing alongside monks?

    I recommend reading “Ale, Beer, and Brewsters in England: Women’s Work in a Changing World 1300-1600.”

    I’ve quoted from it before about how women brewers were once so common that brewster was was preferred for anybody who made beer, male or female.

    Maybe that belongs in a commercial.

  16. Alan Moen August 3, 2008 at 9:47 am #

    Regarding historical women brewers, here’s a note from Brian Glover’s book, “Brewing for Victory”: During WWII, since many British men went off to war, women began to play a much larger role at home in the brewing industry — as both brewers and publicans. Much of that was no doubt relinquished when the war was over, but it seems to have been something of a breakthrough for women in beer.

    By the way, I wonder if anyone read my article in American Brewer, where I quoted many women on marketing issues? I’d like to hear your comments.

  17. Women Smoking Cigars March 24, 2009 at 10:31 am #

    I love seeing women take is very fun!

  18. Janice September 30, 2009 at 9:03 am #

    Ohh i would love to see more adverts for beer being directed at women! :):) x

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