Have you ever purchased an item because of the package it comes in? Have you ever walked down the aisle and thought "that is the coolest looking box I have ever seen! I'm buying it--even though I don't want what's in it!" Or have you ever tried a product--disliked it--but then bought it again when the manufacturer changed the wrapper? If you are a smart consumer, you likely have never done that--because you know what is on the outside is just for show and what really matters is what is inside the package.
So why then do the major beer makers only talk about their cans and bottles? I started thinking about this while listening to the Brewers game last night when Bob Uecker started talking about how Miller Lite is now "back in its original can!" I know that when I make my beer buying decision, the originality of the can isn't that big a deal--but Miller believes that to the vast majority of drinkers, having a can that looks like it came from the 1970's makes a huge difference.
And let's not forget that the "original" Miller Lite can replaces the "punch top" can--which required drinkers to use a key or an old-fashioned can opener to punch a small hole after popping the top to "improve the flow of refreshment". That replaced the "widemouth" can--which had a larger pop top opening to "improve the flow of refreshment". And that replaced a series of "bold new look" cans for Miller Lite--which apparently suffered from a "boldness shortage" in the past.
Miller is not alone in this "it's all about the can" marketing effort. Coors Light believes that it's consumers are so dumb they can't tell if a beer is cold unless the mountains on the label turn blue. "The mountains are blue! I can finally drink my Coors light safely!" Coors Light was also first with the "aluminum bottle" which was "specially designed to keep your beer colder". Meanwhile, Budweiser put the "born on date" on its cans--like there are giant "beer mothers" at the St Louis brewery pushing out product on a daily basis.
Now some beer packaging is important. Brown and green bottles help keep certain kinds of brews from turning skunky in the light. And the Guiness Draught bottles and cans have the CO2 cartridges in them that instantly carbonate the beer when you open them (although it still isn't as good as an actual draft beer at the bar). But any other marketing based on the look or the shape of a bottle or can is just yelling about a wrapper.
As craft and specialty beers gain a greater share of the market--cutting into the sales of Miller Lite, Bud and Coors Light--perhaps the brewers might want to consider improving what is INSIDE the can and the bottle. Maybe today's more discerning consumer might give Miller Lite a try if the ad campaign was something like "Now with real beer flavor!"