MillerCoors revamps marketing approach in effort to win back drinkers

Amid a challenging time for the beer industry, which has lost drinkers to wine, spirits and non-alcoholic drinks, MillerCoors is making changes to its marketing approach with the aim of bringing drinkers back to beer.

Spearheaded by MillerCoors Chief Marketing Officer Michelle St. Jacques, the new approach hinges on three key priorities: A ruthless focus on recruitment, especially among younger legal-age drinkers; building brands “that more people want to hang out with;” and being “bolder and faster” with new ideas.

“It’s all about moving with speed over perfection,” St. Jacques said. “It’s about taking smart risks. Connecting with consumers. Trying new things in marketplace. And throwing gasoline on what is working, and stopping the things that aren’t working. We need to be sprinting, and that’s the way we’re going to continue to win.”

She referenced Miller Lite’s and Coors Light’s quick response to #Corntroversy; Blue Moon's response to Blue Origin's lunar lander, including the creation of its own lunar lander keg; and limited market tests of new products, such as a recently released line of wine spritzers called Movo.

Underpinning St. Jacques' approach, which she shared at a recent beer industry conference, is the idea that the beer industry has lost a certain amount of relevance for the key younger legal-drinking age demographic.

Reaching them — and crucially, converting them — requires a certain amount of fortitude and gusto. And the acknowledgement that every effort may not connect.

“We can’t play it safe. We can’t play to not be wrong. We can’t play not to lose,” St. Jacques says. “We have to take risks, to play to win, to go for the things that scare us. So all of our marketing needs to stem from a strong foundation that allows us to work faster, take smarter risks and move at the speed of culture.”

The company’s new approach starts with its No. 1 priority: Coors Light. MillerCoors’ top-selling brand is set to begin working with a broader set of creative agencies, an effort to bring “fresh ideas designed to make Coors Light more relevant to younger legal-age drinkers and recruit them into the beer category,” St. Jacques says.

Coors Light this week tapped Leo Burnett to take the strategic lead to help the brand build its overall direction and overarching marketing campaigns. A broader roster of agencies — including Miller Lite lead agency DDB, Arc, Connect at Publicis, ICF Next and others — will be charged with “generating breakthrough ideas to help the brand connect with consumers,” says Ryan Reis, vice president of the Coors family of brands.

“This isn’t about which agency is doing what. The focus is on giving this brand the best ideas out there to help move it forward,” Reis says. “We have a two-point trend change from the end of 2018, but that’s not enough. We’re confident we’ve laid the foundation in the right place, but we need to keep building until we have a gleaming skyscraper that a new generation of drinkers wants to move to.”

New work is expected to hit this summer.

“We will buy brave, awesome ideas,” St. Jacques says. “Brands matter, especially in the beer industry. What you have in your hand or bring to a party matters. So we need big ideas that bring drinkers back to beer and get them excited about our brands again. And I know we can do that.”