Red, white and brew: How elaborate beer displays get built

If you didn’t know summer was almost here, the beer displays are a dead giveaway.

The summer tentpole holidays of Memorial Day and the Fourth of July present a marketing opportunity for beer brands that’s second to none, with retail beer displays that scream red, white and brew.

For distributors like Darrin Friedrichsen, district manager for The Odom Corporation in Spokane, Wash., that means turning cases of Miller Lite into patriotic odes to America.

“We have two, three tanks up and two battleships” featuring Miller Lite’s Americana packaging, he says. “A lot of times, when we build those displays, somebody else wants one. When one store sees it, the next store says, ‘I want that,’ and, ‘My store, too.’ It creates a theme for the season.”

And while it takes only a few hours to build even the most bombastic of displays, planning to win the season starts a year in advance, involving multiple departments, creative branding, logistical planning and good old-fashioned, in-your-face marketing, says Jeff Schulman, marketing manager for Miller Lite.

“We’re already talking about 2022,” he says.

Massive American flags made from Miller Lite’s new summer packaging, beach-themed towers of Coors Light’s updated sunglasses cases, and Leinenkugel’s lakeside vibes are just some of the displays Molson Coors Beverage Company brands are showcasing this summer. Even Miller High Life is getting in on the action with updated packaging featuring Champagne coupes.

A good display inspires shoppers to stop and pay attention, Schulman says. “Our packaging does a great job of creating retail theater outside the beer aisle.”

Once brands settle on a theme, marketing teams work to design blueprints that distributors can use to build beer-case battleships, grilling scenes or enormous American flags, says Buz Cady, director of off-premise shopper marketing for Miller Lite. “When somebody sees a display, beer may not be top of mind on that trip, but (a good display) trips an occasion to buy that beer and stock up.”

That kicks off a logistics scramble to find the components that distributors can order to build eye-catching displays that link Molson Coors beers to summertime fun, patriotism and relaxation, Cady says. That’s how the branded grills, fire pits, beach chairs and tailgating tents that accessorize dynamic beer displays make their way in front of consumers.

Distributors then show their retail accounts what seasonal display options are available, urging sales to bring the original vision closer to reality. The large displays also incentivize retailers to buy product that can be used in social-media-worthy displays, while also serving as a way to store inventory, Cady says.

They also are proven to drive consumer sales.

Nearly half of shoppers say that displays play a big part in their decision to buy beer while grocery shopping, according to Molson Coors data. And nearly a third of shoppers say displays influence their decision to purchase a particular brand.

That puts extra importance on getting displays in front of customers, as well as creating blueprints and packaging that make it easy for distributors to build.

“There’s always a benefit to simplicity,” Cady says.

Once a retailer has committed to installing a display, they are strategically placed to remind shoppers that beer brands are available to enhance their holiday celebration. The key, unsurprisingly, is location and size, Schulman says, as well as an array of products and information, like pricing.

An effective display also makes it easy for shoppers to make a decision – and pick up a case.

“A lot of times, those displays look so pristine, no one wants to touch them,” he says, noting that the most effective displays should have stacks of beer alongside easy for the taking.

When in doubt, Schulman says, consumers should grab a case.

“We want to get beer into the shopper’s cart,” he says. “It’s not a museum. It’s a grocery store.”