Adult Beverage Brands Target the Everyman

It was bound to happen, really. After years of “premiumization” garnering big buzz in adult beverages, with marketers jockeying to position their beverage brands as sophisticated choices for discerning drinkers (and consumers aspiring to a more “premium” lifestyle), some labels are looking to stand out by going decidedly against the flow. Their goal? Appeal to the masses by being anti-fancy.

Last month, Diageo’s Smirnoff vodka launched the “Exclusively for Everybody” campaign, promoting Smirnoff as a high-quality but pretense-free vodka choice suitable for any occasion. TV spots enlist NBC comedy actors Alison Brie and Adam Scott to poke fun at, among other things, vodka labels that tout elite-sounding product origins and overcomplicated mixology.

In one ad, Brie orders a “deconstructed martini,” which the hipster-rific mixologist then clarifies is “not so much a deconstructed martini as a steampunk reboot of a martini” made with Smirnoff (of course) plus tap water from the Library of Congress, freshly slapped sage and “the barest suggestion of mint.” Scott’s voiceover at the end touts Smirnoff as the choice for the perfect martini, vodka tonic or off-the-wall bartender creation.

Another adult beverage brand aiming to embrace egalitarianism is Miller High Life, which debuted the “I Am Rich” campaign in April. With ads featuring “normal people enjoying daily pleasures,” the campaign looks to showcase that “richness is about how you live your life, not how much money you accumulate.” Miller High Life has its sights set on budget-conscious Millennials who may chafe at the prices they find for trendy craft beers and microbrews; the brand’s news release states that the campaign spotlights “what matters most to today’s Millennial beer drinker.”

Finally, in a celebration of real-life everyday consumers, Samuel Adams announced last week that three home brewers will have their beers featured in the Samuel Adams 2014 LongShot Variety Six-Pack, now rolling out to stores nationwide. The brewers were the 2013 winners (from almost 1,000 entries) of Samuel Adams’ long-running LongShot American Homebrew Contest. The contest isn’t new, but Boston Beer Co.’s Samuel Adams noted in a news release that interest in home brewing continues to reach new heights—making the brand’s hat-tip to consumers who love beer so much they experiment with brewing their own a valuable recognition of the role that everyday consumers play in shaping the adult beverage industry at large.

Can we expect to see more efforts later this year on behalf of beverage brands to appeal to the Everyman and Everywoman? It seems likely. Smirnoff asserted in press materials for its campaign that vodka has “lost sight of its populist roots”; that’s a sentiment that mass-market brands across beverage categories may see as ripe for exploiting as they seek to prevent smaller and emerging labels from encroaching upon their market share.

To be sure, adult beverage consumers have shown growing inclination in the past several years to explore higher-end brands and flavorful and novel new products—it’s a trend we discuss in our 2014 State of the Industry Report and our new SpiritsTAB report. But the widening universe of beverage choices available to consumers at the bar and at retail, especially in beer and spirits, may present a double-edged sword, and marketers recognize that some consumers may long to cut through the clutter to find an approachable and affordable—but still solid-quality—adult beverage.



Christine LaFave Grace

Christine LaFave Grace writes for and produces Technomic's Trends & Directions e-newsletters. She joined Technomic in 2013 as an associate editor. Her previous roles include assistant digital editor for Crain Communications’ Modern Healthcare magazine and associate editor at Reed Business Information’s Restaurants & Institutions magazine.

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