Two Hats makes retail debut, aiming to capture next generation of beer drinkers

When it started rolling out to retailers across the country last weekend, Two Hats, the new light beer targeted at 21- to 24-year-old drinkers, didn’t buy a Super Bowl ad. It didn’t plaster cities with billboard advertising or take out spots on local television stations.

It took an unparalleled approach within MillerCoors, doubling down on digital and experiential marketing efforts designed to reach this next generation of consumers where they live: online and at social events.

With a digital marketing plan that leverages partners such as College Humor, Spotify, Snapchat and YouTube, Two Hats is aiming its message at constantly connected digital natives who so far haven’t shown as much of an interest in beer compared with older generations. The brand also plans a series of events hosted across the country to engage with these new-to-the-category consumers, as well as a public relations campaign that’s focused on educating these drinkers on Two Hats.

“The tone of the campaign is fun, surprising and a little unexpected,” says Sofia Colucci, senior director of innovation at MillerCoors. The first step is educating consumers about Two Hats “in a really lighthearted way, through fun memes, GIFs and other media that will make consumers stop in their tracks.”

One of the digital-only ads features a bowling ball rolling along a bar, shattering several bottles of white wine. It features the text: "Good cheap beer is coming ... so stop your wine-ing."

The goal is to enlist this generation of legal-age drinkers to beer from other offerings in wine and spirits. MillerCoors developed Two Hats “to bring something to these drinkers that’s relevant to them, that speaks to them and is at a price point that makes sense for them,” Colucci says.

The clean-finishing light beers are brewed with a hint of natural fruit flavor and check in at a sessionable 4.2 percent alcohol by volume. Two Hats debuted with two familiar flavors that perform well among younger legal-drinking-age consumers — lime and pineapple — and carries the tagline: “Good, cheap beer. Wait, what?”

Aside from the digital advertising and marketing efforts, Two Hats also plans an extensive sampling campaign, which aims to reach a generation of drinkers who aren’t accustomed to drinking beer. “The most critical thing is to introduce them to the light beer profile. Two Hats is a delicious and refreshing light beer with a hint of flavors that these drinkers already are familiar with in other things they’re drinking,” Colucci says.

Beers with some element of flavor are a hot part of the overall beer market, accounting for 27 percent of total U.S. beer launches in 2015, up 80 percent from 2010, according to a report from the market research firm Mintel.

Nearly three in five U.S. alcohol beverage drinkers said they were interested in beer with fruit flavors, the report says. What’s more, one in five beer drinkers drank a flavored beer in 2015, led by women aged 22 to 34, 39 percent of whom drank flavored beer that year.

Marketers view flavor as a key to reach these drinkers, particularly the younger legal-drinking-age millennials and the rising yet-to-be-named group known as Generation Z.

Data show it’s going to be an uphill battle. Some 40 percent of beer’s volume losses are occurring among drinkers aged 21 to 24, according to data collected on behalf of MillerCoors.

Beer consumption among these consumers has declined at an annualized rate of 3 percent over the last 15 years. And if that trend continues unabated, the industry could lose another 33.8 million barrels of volume by 2040, according to consumption patterns modeled with U.S. Census data. And the biggest concern? Just 14 percent of 22- to 24-year-old alcohol consumers say that beer is “meant for them.” Among women of the same age, the figure is even worse, dropping to just 9 percent, per Mintel data.

“There haven’t been any new mainstream light beer launches for this group at this price point … so it’s no surprise they think of beer as dusty and old and migrate to wine and spirits,” says Justine Stauffer, brand manager for MillerCoors who is overseeing the launch of Two Hats. “With Two Hats, our goal is to build the next generation of beer drinkers. This is a beer they can get behind because it offers drinkers what they want:  A great beer at a great low price.”