Does Beer Have An Image Problem?

This article in Ad Age suggests that by volume, beer sales will be down almost 2% this year. And if like me, you’ve ever worked on a beverage client, you know that’s a seismic downward shift.

As of late, big beer brands — which used to be known for buzzworthy ads — are having a hard time breaking through on their own. Distributors interviewed at random at the conference seemed particularly frustrated about what they are seeing on the airwaves, with some complaining about image ads that seem to have nothing to do with the product and others saying joke-filled ads don’t seem to be resonating. “Maybe not enough beer commercials are talking about the relevance of the beer and what the beer is about and too many [are] about the joke,” said Frank Politano, VP-sales and marketing for Kohler Distributing Co. in New Jersey. “I think the consumer is looking more about, ‘What’s my experience? What is the beer about? Why am I drinking it?’ “

The article does note that craft beers are still selling quite well and are seeing sales growth. But the category overall is struggling, and the big boys want to keep their share.

There are no plans, at the moment, for an industry-wide campaign to promote more beer consumption. Perhaps the poster above doesn’t help the image much. But if you were to tackle a campaign ala “Got Milk?” for beer, how would you do it?

About Dan Goldgeier

Blogging on AdPulp since 2005, Dan Goldgeier is a Seattle-based freelance copywriter with experience at advertising agencies across the U.S. He is a graduate of the Creative Circus ad school, and currently teaches at Seattle's School of Visual Concepts. In addition, he is a regular columnist for Dan published the best of his columns in a book entitled View From The Cheap Seats: A Broader Look at Advertising, Marketing, Branding, Global Politics, Office Politics, Sexual Politics, and Getting Drunk During a Job Interview. Look for it on Amazon in paperback and e-book editions.


  1. I think Frank hit it on the head above. All of the big hitters in the beer industry are either about the joke or creating some new feature that doesn’t involve the beer itself I.E. the cold bars on Coors Light or the different bottles/mouths on Miller Lite. It gets tiring, even for people who don’t care about advertising.

    People drink beer to be social, to get a buzz or because they like the taste. Not because it’s funny or has a cute gadget on the bottle or can.

    • I couldn’t agree more. Maybe this is a lesson of where the big players should take lessons from the smaller guys. And I wouldn’t necessarily call Yuengling or Sam Adams small brewers, but I will say that I’m impressed with their focus on boasting product quality and tradition, which to me are the most important parts of the brand. 

  2. we tried a few years back with the A-B sponsored “here’s to beer” initiative.  but it’s hard not to come across as a bit stiff and weird, like the ministry of beer. being rational about beer is boring.

     the bigger problem isn’t perception, it’s a generational preference.  which the beer industry itself contributed to in a way by hyping ever lighter and lighter beers.  less calories = good! was the message for years.   well if less calories = good, then vodka must be awesome!  right?