26 Nov 2012

Macro culture


In the other day's post, Jeff, from Beervana suggested that I should run with the idea that "much of the marketing of the macro brands has a more realistic relationship with beer culture than that of the micro brands." Since I've got nothing better to do, here's me running:

Macro beer marketing has been critisised for being superficial, silly, flat, that it sells brands and not beer, etc. It is also said that it avoids speaking about beer because they sell shit and don't want people to start to think too much about it. False logic. The big brewing companies sell a mass market product and their marketing needs to speak to the widest possible range of consumers. The discourse, therefore, will not be often centered around ingredients, processes and sensory characteristics simply because it would be very much a waste of resources since most people don't give a fuck about where their beer comes from or how it is made.

Should they give a fuck? Yes, they should! They should give many, many fucks. But if they don't give much more than an insignificant number of fucks about the provenance and composition of what they eat every day, how can we expect them to give any fucks whatsoever about something that they essentially see as mildly alcoholic refreshments? Which is, basically, what the macro brands sell them.

But there's more, there's the how they are sold, and here we get to the beer culture thing. Have a look at these four ads.


These three have been going fishing together for six years. One confesses that he hates fish, another one, after taking a swig from the bottle, says that he loves fishing.




One of the ads from a great series of Kozel.

Forget about the brands and what you think about the beers themselves, they are not that relevant, and pay attention to the thread that runs through all four ads. Friendship, fun, relax.

We often say that beer is a democratic beverage, a social lubricant and leveller, that it tastes better when it's drunk among friends than when drinking it is an end by itself. We have all that in those ads. In Kozel's, for instance, we see a carpenter going for a pint after the day's work, he shares the table with two younger friends (we know they are his friends because one of them tosses a coaster on the table when he sees the carpenter walking in) and he's on first name basis with the tapster (something hardly happens right away with Czechs).

In each case, we see the beer as part of the moment. Of course, the message is that drinking a given brand will make the moment better, but the important thing is never the beer, but the moment, the when, where and with whom factors (the three mates in the Gambrinus ad, don't go fishing to drink the beer, they go fishing because they want to spend some time together, away from the usual shit they may have to put up with every day). And that is why I said the other day that the much of the marketing of the macro brands understands beer, and by extension, beer culture, better than the micro brands. They show a relationship with beer that is more natural, more organic, more realistic, specially in the Kozel and Krušovice ads, where the beers are consumed at pubs, than the one presented by tastings, pairings, special editions, fancy bottles and what have you.

Mind you, I don't thing there is anything wrong about this, quite the opposite. I think it's great that there are alternatives, a counter-culture if you want, and that they are introduced in a proper fashion to the ever growing number of people who do care about how their beers are made and want to know more. Thanks to their size, flexibility and a "more human" image, micro breweries are in the best position to talk to these people, but they should try to do it without loosing the fun side of beer and, in particular, avoiding rhetorical bollocks and presenting their brand as a lifestyle accessory.

Remember that Pravá chuť přátelství will always beat Beer for Punks.

Na Zdraví!

PS: To be fair, macro brands should also avoid giving their product a coat of sophistication, it looks silly.

2 comments:

  1. Great post. The Czech Republic is small enough that it may not have a lot of regional identity. In the US, it used to be that regional breweries would not only play on the elements you describe, but tie it to localness. This was HUGELY important to their success, and created a kind of touchstone we all shared. In my case, we had a brewery called Henry Weinhard's in downtown Portland. It was there from 1852 to 1999--which corresponds to the founding of the town. Here are three examples of how they used to play on our love and sense of place in their ads.

    Beach Ball

    Country's Best Beer

    Schludwiller

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    1. Actually, there are quite a strong regional identities in the East of the country, but the only brewery that I remember exploited some of it at some point was Starobrno...

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