More taste tests

With Miller Lite sales surging, A-B plans new campaign

Sept 20, 2004 - Surging sales of Miller Lite beer appear to be putting taste back into beer advertising. St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch, the nation's largest brewer, is set to launch a major marketing campaign provoked by its smaller rival, Milwaukee-based Miller Brewing Co.


A-B announced plans to do extensive consumer sampling of Bud Light and Budweiser, its two largest brands. That sampling campaign will be coupled with new advertising that promoties freshness of Bud Light and Budweiser.

Brewing industry observers say Miller is forcing Anheuser-Busch to market its products on Miller's terms, with a greater focus on taste. That's a switch from the recent method of selling beer based on its image, with ads that rely on humor and don't mention the quality of the beer.

"Our game plan has been working, so they need to react," said Tom Bick, Miller Lite brand manager.

In the 12 months that ended in August, Miller Lite sales volume in supermarkets and drug stores increased 10.4%. Bud Light sales dropped 1.4%, and Coors Light sales dropped 4.3%.

Miller last summer started conducting blind taste-test promotions, comparing Miller Lite to Bud Light and Miller Genuine Draft to Budweiser. Those promotions so far have reached more than 250,000 people at clubs and taverns. Also, Miller hired the Institute for Perception, a research firm based in Richmond, Va., to conduct taste tests in a controlled setting. Miller began running TV ads in June that said those tests found a majority of Bud Light drinkers said Miller Lite has more taste than Bud Light.

It's all part of Miller's strategy to convince consumers that differences in taste do exist between its beers and those brewed by Anheuser-Busch.

Miller executives said crafting the sense of distinction is crucial for Miller. If beer drinkers believe all beers taste the same, they will likely buy the dominant brands, Budweiser and Bud Light.

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