Line Extensions

I’ve been in the beer industry for eight years now, and I’ve learned that just like any other industry, it’s extremely cyclical. In the beer industry, the cycles sway back and forth from “concentrate on core brands” to “innnovate and launch new brands/styles”. Right now, We’re definitely in an “innovate and launch” cycle and it’s been interesting to see which direction the brewers go when launching a new brand: line extend or create a new brand.

It’s been interesting to see which direction to go when launching a new brand: line extend or new brand?

Let’s look at some recent case studies:

  • Line Extensions:
    • Michelob Ultra – this brand experienced huge success for a few year, but it was somewhat short lived as the popularity of the Atkins Diet waned. But it is still a brand with strong positioning and loyal, niche following. Plus it’s really the only low-carb brand that survived.
    • Budweiser Select – this brand is still around and probably will be for a while – but I doubt that it ever reached AB’s expectations and it appears that this brand has been relegated to a second tier brand for AB.
  • New Brands
    • Miller Chill – This launch of Miller Chill was a huge success for Miller. Not only did they steal share from competitors, but they traded those consumers up to a higer priced brand.
    • Blue Moon – The success for Blue Moon has been developing for quite a while. I remember drinking a Blue Moon in Glenwood Springs in 2002 , long before I lived in Colorado and long before it gained its current popularity. Blue Moon is a brand that has been allowed to grow as consumers discovered the brand. Kudos to Coors for having patience and doing this the right way. In the day and age of immediate return on investment and impatient stockholders – this brand was built right.

Now here come the new brands. AB is line extending Bud Light to Bud Light Lime and Miller is extending Miller Light to the Miller Brewer’s Collection. It will be interesting to see how these brands fare, but I think it’s pretty easy to make a prediction is pretty easy: Line extensions lead to mediocre brands in the beverage business.

  • Bud Light Lime will probably find the same fate of Coke Lime – a niche brand that appeals to a small audience and essentially waters down the flagship. Personally, I would have just ran on-premise promotions where consumers are encouraged to try their Bud Light with a Lime, but that’s me.
  • Miller will test market the Miller Lite Brewer’s Collection, get some good feedback and take a couple of the styles national. But it won’t take long for Miller to lose interest because the brands aren’t growing as fast as they want and consequently, they will start to fade. I understand Miller wants to carve out a new niche in craft beers, but given the choice to line extend, I can already tell that they don’t have the patience needed to make these brands successful.

Ultimately, there isn’t a steadfast rule when it comes to answering the question of line extending or not. But, if a you’re looking for an immediate spike, line extending probably is the way to go. Just don’t bet your future on that brand, because it will probably


3 thoughts on “Line Extensions

  1. Neal – Where do the efforts to extend the Blue Moon line fit in?

    And speaking of the Blue Moon/Miller Craft approaches. Yesterday in looking up an old beer story from the San Diego Union I was presented with a Miller Brewer’s Collection ad. Don’t tink you would have seen this from Blue Moon in 1996.

  2. Good question…

    I think Blue Moon’s line extension efforts are right in line with the rest of the micro/craft segment. They are introducing new styles with the same brand hierarchy as the flagship brand. Same holds true for what we do at Flying Dog and how New Belgium or pretty much any craft brewer launches brands.

    Would I like to differentiate all 14 styles of Flying Dog beer and target different consumers with different styles? Yeah, because different types of people are in to different styles of beer and styles are stronger in certain geographies than others. But it’s impossible with the size of our marketing budget and I think the same holds true for my fellow craft beer marketers.

  3. Pingback: Appellation Beer: Beer From a Good Home » Blog Archive » Miller Lite Collection: Which one is the ale?

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