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From Van Damme’s Glass to the Irish Lass: Coors Light’s Trip Across the Atlantic

THE BOOZE BIN

By Eliza Winston

“A woman drinkin’ a Guinness?” my elderly cousin asked in horror during a recent family reunion in Ireland.

Of course I was drinking Guinness, this was Ireland, right? From then on, I couldn’t help but notice something that gave me the sinking feeling my beer choice was wrong. Very wrong.

That’s because the drink of choice of the Irish woman is …. Coors Light.

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That’s right, Irish ladies prefer to drink the official beer of NASCAR, and the beer that an Alaskan man drank to survive while being stuck in a snow drift. Is it because Irish women are just a little more rugged than their American counterparts?

Nope. It’s because in Ireland, Coors Light was thought of (since its introduction to the market in 1997) as a decidedly “girly” beer. Through a little research (talking to relatives) I found out when it was first introduced, it was marketed as a light beer with a nice taste, and it was one of the only Lagers available.

In the U.S., it’s common to see Coors Light at college parties, sports games and even made into Father’s day, birthday or groom’s cakes. But in Ireland, that desirable young male demographic was turning up their noses in favor of a point of Guinness or Bulmer’s. Why?

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Because the culture didn’t fit the beer.

According to a case study from Chemistry, a communications company, when Coors Light was launched in Ireland the Irish market had no history of a light beer. To Irish men, “light” meant low calories, low taste and low alcohol content. And none of those were good things.

So what to do? According to their research, when Irish men order a beer at a bar they order it by brand. Here in the U.S., you might ask the bartender for the best IPA, a hefeweizen, or lager they have on tap. But in Ireland, they ask for a Bulmer’s, a Guinness or even a Budweiser. So Coors Light had to be given a rich heritage that made men think of quality.

Chemistry had to establish an emotional connection with young Irish men, and they did so by publishing ads that pointed to the rugged mountains and history of the Rocky Mountains. The push was to get men to think of the beverage as rugged, not weak.

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Are men no longer ashamed to ask for it loudly at the local pub? I’m not sure. Chemistry’s case study points out that demand for Coors Light has continued to grow at a time when the country’s demand for beer is steadily decreasing.

But that buy-in from the Irish woman definitely isn’t hurting sales. In fact, Molson Coors is trying to figure out how to get women in the United Kingdom to be as enthusiastic about their pints. Women in the UK knock back only 13 percent of beer sales, while women in Ireland consume 36 percent of beer sold. But even at 36 percent, it’s easy to see why Coors Light wants to get men (who make up the other 64 percent) on board.

And it looks like the UK feels the same way. But they didn’t choose the company’s history and rugged gold-miners to reach British men. Instead, they opted for an epic quest through the Rockies with Jean Claude Van Damme. Has it worked? Just as in Ireland, Coors Light has outperformed the UK market, growing in sales even when the overall beer sales for the country are declining.

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Coors Light’s effect on the Irish beer market proves that timing and understanding can have a significant impact on reaching your target market. Irish men might not have realized at first that a light beer could be rugged. But many of the women knew immediately it was just what they had been waiting for, and those loyal customers will continue to drink it and ask for it loudly, at any bar.

It also made me realize that my tastes in beer are equally influenced by my peers. I know I’ll stick to drinking Guinness when in Ireland and when it’s St. Patrick’s Day. On other days, well, I’ll take the local microbrew. (A hefeweizen, if you have it.)

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About Emily Valentine:

Emily is fascinated by every aspect of food: How it’s grown, how it’s prepared and how it impacts our perceptions and behaviors. Described by her colleagues as a voracious learner and energetic worker, she thrives on helping companies achieve their purpose through strategic communications and creative executions. Emily’s home base is in Washington, DC, where you’ll find her running, writing, biking, planning her next trip and shopping at Whole Foods whenever she has the chance.

2 Comments on “From Van Damme’s Glass to the Irish Lass: Coors Light’s Trip Across the Atlantic

  1.  by  Rachael Seda
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    What interesting insight. I always think it’s neat to learn why people do certain things and the effect that marketing has on our choices. What’s funny is Guiness actually only has 21 more calories compared to Coors Light. On that note, I’m with you Emily, I’ll take a Guiness. Too bad it won’t be as fresh and tasty as I hear the Guiness is in Ireland!

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