Last week marked the arrival of Yuengling to the Buckeye state. Billboards and advertisement for Yuengling can be seen all around Dayton. This popular Pennsylvania beer, could often be spotted in refrigerators across the Buckeye state, but could not be purchased here in Ohio. People have been willing to drive great distances to Pennsylvania and beyond to stock up on Yuengling – which by all accounts is a pretty tasty brew. Now Ohio is the 14th state where Yuengling is available.
This scarcity, combined with a rich brand story of “America’s Oldest Brewery” has created a mystique around the brand. Oddly enough it reminds me of another brand that for those under 30 may come as a surprise – Coors.
Coors is a very successful, mass produced, mass marketed beer that is less about a unique identity, rich history, or unique flavor than it is about big marketing campaigns, color changing cans, excellent distribution, and a very affordable price point. Coors sells a lot of beer. However, if there were no Coors available in Ohio, would you drive to Colorado to get it? Probably not, but at one point in time the answer for many people was YES!
Back in the 70’s and 80’s Coors had very limited distribution The brand had built a considerable following in the Western United States, but you could not buy Coors east of the Mississippi River. This created scarcity. This created buzz (bad pun) and demand for their product. People were willing to smuggle Coors, which today is seen as undifferentiated as a product, across state lines to get it. Coors was a prize. It was a conversation piece.
Then, it became available everywhere. The beer did not change, but over time the brand did. Scarcity was replaced by mass marketing and distribution. Today, Coors, Molson Coors to be specific, is a mainstream brand that competes through Sunday football ads and in store promotions. They have an identity, but one that evolved over time. The beer did not change, but the story people tell themselves about the brand did.
As Yuengling becomes less scarce, less novel, and more common, the challenge will be to craft the new story of the brand. Soon, just having it in the fridge won’t spark the conversation of “How did you get that?” As the novelty wears off, Yuengling will have to compete on other attributes. It may be that the taste is unique and appealing enough that they can compete on just being a great beer. After all they’ve been doing it since 1829. Clearly they know a thing or two about it. Still, craft beer is a crowded space. Beers like Fat Tire will take over in the scarcity department, sparking conversations at parties just by being present – just like Yuengling and Coors before. Mass market beer is highly competitive, and superbowl ads are not cheap – making that a challenging path too. As a marketing professional it will be interesting to me to see how the Yuengling brand evolves. As a beer drinker, I think I need to go welcome them to the Buckeye State by enjoying a few. Cheers!
Interesting Aside: (Smokey and the Bandit was about smuggling Coors. Why does that movie keep appearing in my blog posts?)