The Six Worst Marketing Gimmicks By Major Breweries

“Sure it tastes like garbage, but it looks like a bow-tie so suddenly I want to drink it!”

~Americans according to Budweiser

budweiser can

You see that up there?  That’s the latest attempt by Budweiser to dangle shiny things in front of American beer drinkers in order to trick them into buying their watered down, rice-brewed beer.  The marketing strategy is simple—hey, people will buy any beer if the can looks all funny.  It’s a bow-tie guys!  The beer inside must taste like something other than wet cardboard and dirty barroom floors.

While there are craft beers that veer towards the “pointlessly novel” in order to entice novice drinkers (looking at you, Clown Shoes Brewery), they usually have a quality product they’re trying to introduce to the masses.  The largest domestic beer brewers, however, can’t make such claims.  They know they’re selling you cheap swill (that admittedly will get you drunk…eventually) but dammit, if the bottle is cool enough, maybe they can trick you to think otherwise.  That’s where we get…

The Six Worst Marketing Gimmicks By Major Breweries

 bud light lime

Beer is the great equalizer in American society.  We all drink it, and if you don’t drink it, fuck you, we’re not interested in anything you have to say.  Of course, for many dark years, Americans faced a disturbing lack of variety when it came to beers of choice.  Most beers were bland, cheap, and loved by Americans because beer is still beer and there’s got to be some way to convince yourself that you’re attracted to the last girl at the bar around closing time.  Of course, as these macrobreweries built their market share, they began an advertising war that most people would refer to a “pisswatering contest.”  Beers need to be revolutionary even if the only changes you’re enacting involve finding a way to get it in your stomach fast enough that you don’t have to taste it.  That’s why we’ve ended up with the following gimmicks that range from “pointless” to “now you’re just depressing us, Miller.”


miller 64 bud 55

(photo via Austin Brew)

Here in the AFFotD offices, we have a saying.  “There’s a special place in hell for the man who invented light beer.”  Many assume we have that crudely carved into our fridge door because we want to fatten our fair nation up, but the truth is not that simple.  We absolutely do want to fatten you up, that’s just not the reason why we hate light beer.  No, the true evils of light beer come from the simple fact that, if you’re going to remove the calories from a beer, you typically do that by lowering the alcohol content.  While Bud Light Platinum went out of their way to avoid that pratfall (by making a beer that tastes sort of like “someone took a shot of vodka, couldn’t stomach it, and discretely dribbled half of it into their already open bottle of Bud Light), light beers generally give you less bang for your buck.  Miller Lite takes away .5% of the alcohol of Miller Genuine Draft, as well as several letters from the word “light.”  Bud Light takes away a whopping .9% compared to Bud Heavy.  Even Coors, which describes themselves as tasting like the Rockies while hoping you don’t figure out that they’re implying their beer tastes like snow, has an .8% higher ABV than their “Light” counterpart.

Which is why, in a world where light beers go out of their way to make sure we have to chug a six-pack just to feel something other than what we’re feeling at this very moment, the worst of light beers come from Miller and Budweiser’s arms race to create the lowest calorie beer and market it to “healthy people.”

Miller 64 was the first of these monstrosities to hit the market.  To call this beer, which clocks in at a whopping 3% ABV and tastes like someone dipped a piece of hay into a glass of seltzer water, an abortion would be an insult to people who work in the bio-medical removal industry.  Because tricking women and body-conscious men (wait, what the fuck, those exist?) into drinking toilet water is apparently considered a pretty good prank in the macrobrewery business, Budweiser was quick to follow suit.  Thus we were burdened with Budweiser 55, still to this day the most elaborate method used to make people finish ten beers and scream, “I’M STILL NOT DRUNK!  WHAT IS HAPPENING!?”  At 2.5% ABV, this beer is slightly more effective at getting you drunk than, say, a carton of orange juice so far beyond its expiration date you think it might have accidentally started fermenting, though we’d imagine that the spoilt orange juice tastes better.

No matter what happens in your life, no matter what decisions you make, if you find yourself at a party with Miller 64 or Budweiser 55, do not drink it.  Not because it’s an insult to the word “beer”, but mainly because the host most definitely poisoned those bottles as a way to get rid of people with terrible tastes in awful things.


 coors light

Back in 2008, Coors had a problem.  They wanted people to drink their beer fast enough that they’d not be able to taste a thing, bless their naïve little hearts, but the “government” wouldn’t let them sell their beer with a feeding tube.  However, from the ashes of the deepest disappointments come the greatest innovations, so Coors decided, “Hey, let’s make the mouth-hole thing a little wider and, I don’t know, put a vent in there or some shit, what do I look like, a scientist, just have the R&D boys get on that once they’re done seeing if we can save costs on ingredients by putting a little antifreeze in the vats.”  And thus, after a dozen handful of employees succumbed to ethylene glycol poisoning under completely non-work-related circumstances, the vented wide-mouth can was released as a way to force as much swill into your gullet in as short of a time as possible.  The can was had an 8% wider opening, a built-in vent to produce a smoother pour and reduce vacuum, and a marketing campaign devoted to telling you facts like that in order for you to somehow believe that it’ll make a damn difference to your beer drinking experience.

Most of the items on this list center on “let’s change the design of the beer container so that you won’t have to taste it” which shows how all it takes is a multi-million dollar advertising budget to make Americans forget that beer colder than a certain temperature loses flavor, or that most quality products encourage you to take your time to savor them, as opposed to scarf it down using as few taste buds as possible.  This was the can design that got the ball rolling on the can and bottle design wars, where big brewers spent millions of dollars developing new ways for you to drink their products instead of spending that money on better quality ingredients or the ability to make a beer that tastes good.


cold activiated label

There’s not much Americans love more than a nice, cold beer.  It makes a day at the ballpark seem like something more exciting than watching 9 men stand around for 3 hours while intermittently running, it turns a hot summer afternoon into a convenient excuse to day drink, and it gives us yet another reason to look down at the British, those warm beer drinking bastards.  The tricky thing with cold beer, however, is balance.  Cold is good.  Too cold, and you can’t really taste the beer that much.  Way too cold, and you’ve got a beer popsicle, which, trust us, isn’t nearly as delicious as it sounds.

Coors knows two things.  They know their beer isn’t particularly flavorful, and they also know that, oh look, it’s a shiny thing that changes color when it’s cold!  Cool!  Ha ha, get it?  Cool!  What a great pun!  Anyway, what was that first thing again?

Coors  took their can and added a special ink to the mountains that would turn blue as soon as the beer reached an “optimal drinking temperature”.  Coors claims that this temperature is just over 40 degrees, or roughly the temperature of most refrigerators.  You know in certain parts of America where people do polar bear dives into near-freezing lakes?  That’s what forty degree liquid feels like.  That’s less “refreshing” as it is “numbing your taste buds.”  But, hey!  Shiny!  It’s so fucking shiny!  Since 40 degree beer is not cold enough to properly turn your mouth into a desensitized beer guzzling machine, two years after the initial release of the cold activated can, they added a second stage.  Now, you can have your beer either cold, or super cold.  In a few years, they’ll probably add a third level of cold-activation, which we can only guess would be “getting your tongue stuck to the can like that one kid in A Christmas Story.”


miller vortex

In 2010, Miller joined Coors in the “drink the beer faster!  FASTER DAMN YOU!” department when they introduced the Vortex bottle.  Specially designed grooves were etched inside the bottle to help propel the beer right on down your esophagus so you don’t have to pause and think, “Wait, what the hell am I doing, this bar has Sierra Nevada on tap.”  The grooves speed the beer out of the bottle, sort of like the grooves inside of a gun!  BANG BANG, you’re drunk!  Ha ha, just kidding, you’re drinking Miller, you could pound those all day and not come away with anything more than a bloated feeling and a hangover that you didn’t even get buzzed enough to deserve.

The whole gun aspect sort of makes sense, though, since the most efficient way to drink a Miller Lite without the aid of a funnel still remains shotgunning, but apparently this had to suffice since Miller didn’t want to go totally over the deep end by making a beer you cut holes in to drink faster, right?


punch top can

Oh, goddamn it.  Last year, Miller decided that handing drunk people beer and telling them they can drink it faster if they cut a hole in aluminum would be a great way to market a beer without people cutting the fuck out of themselves.  Enter, the Punch Top Can.  Finally, you too can fumble awkwardly with a key to try to emulate the beer commercials you see, only to find out that it’s fucking impossible to pull that shit off, since the punch hole in the can needs a weirdly specific type of pressure you can only get from some novelty promotional punch top keychain that’s more likely to stab you in the hand than successfully stab a hole in a can of beer.  Can’t you just see the vaginas flying towards your face?  (For our female readers:  we don’t mean to leave you out, but if you’re at a bar and are chugging Miller Lites, you’re probably not worried about a lack of interest from members of the opposite sex.)

About half the people drinking Miller Lites right now are aware of this ability to “vent” the beer so you can drink it faster, while the rest of them are going, “Huh, you’re right, there is a tiny little tab in the metal here.  Isn’t that the damndest thing?”  Either way, it probably hasn’t really revolutionized your beer drinking experience, mainly because it’s hard to revolutionize something that’s really crappy.  Revolutionizing a can of Miller Lite is like “revolutionizing” the way you eat worms.  Even when it’s better, it’s still unpleasant.


write on can

The previous five entries of this list, for better or worse, in some way changed how you experience the beer you’re drinking (by making it colder, faster, shittier, etc).  Bud Light can’t make the same claim with this gimmick, which they introduced midway through 2011—a regular Bud Light bottle with a space that allows you to write your name on the label using a key/coin/piece of metal.  Finally, a beer bottle that lets you doodle on it, just like the children’s menu at a chain restaurant!

Oh, sure, they advertised it as a great way to get the digits of that hot girl you’re chatting up at the bar, since 2011 was well before smart phones that you could use to store a number was a thing that everyone had.  For all you Casanovas out there burdened with a flip phone, a limited minutes plan, and a terrifying fear of pens exploding in your pocket, Budweiser has your back.  Because when you’re chugging Bud Lights, handing a woman a metal object and slurring “SCRATCH YOUR NUMBER ONTO MY BEER YOU’RE PRETTY” is a winner, every time, no matter what those asshole cops tell you when they hand you that restraining order.

Though on the plus side, this beer does give you the option to write something like, “My friend bought this beer for me.  I have much better taste.”  Which actually would make you seem more attractive to those around you.  So, in a weird way, it sort of works.  Um, good job, Bud Light?  We guess?


5 responses to “The Six Worst Marketing Gimmicks By Major Breweries

  1. Speaking of those “BowTie” Budweiser cans…..the cans are only 11.3 oz instead of 12 oz…..I know .7 oz isn’t very much but when you figure that Adolphus and his descendants sell a couple million/trillion a year those .7 oz start adding up real quick…. and then they sell them in these stupid little 8 packs !!! WTF….
    I mean really ….I came down to the store to get a 12 pack…and in my world that means 12 ( one dozen ) 12 ounce cans of beer ….
    I don’t want an 8 Pack of 11.3 oz beers, or a 4 pack of 16oz beers, or a 3 pack of 24oz beers….I want a dam 12 pack !!! is that to much to frakin’ ask ?
    I have been buying coolers all my life (58) that these particular 12 pks fit perfectly in. ( and I’m quite sure that was by design ) but now I’ve got this stubby little 8 pk of 11.3oz “BowTie” cans…

    On the 4th of July my girlfriend and I went to a party and I had 2 of these “stubby BowTie” 8pks and I put them in one of the tubs of ice they had at the party and the host came over and was getting a beer ( a Heineken ) and he saw my “stubbies” and he said, ” hey who brought the squished cans ?” I tried to hide the one I had in my hand but he saw it and came over and said, ” dam Brian, how’d you squish all those cans the same way ? and why ?
    After I explained to him that it was a new can design from Budweiser (personally I think its a gimmick to get Chevy owners to buy Budweiser) he looked at the can again and saw that it only had 11.3oz in it and said, ” yeah some gimmick, you just got beat out of .7 oz of beer in every can” and then he walked away laughing.
    It wasn’t long after that, that I heard a couple of guys holding one of them up and they were saying things like “hey can I wear this around my neck to the office” ” but they’re so cute” ” hey Bob lets put this in the grill of your Silverado “.
    Well to save face I non chanlontly slipped the “BowTIe” I had been drinking into a trash barrel and switched to drinking some Bacardi and coke….
    NOTE : at he end of the night, I saw 14 cans of my “Stubby BowTie” Budweiser’s still floating in the ice tub…..( I drank 1 and the other 1 that the guys were playing with ended up in the dogs bowl )

    great gimmick huh.

  2. Pingback: Point/Counterpoint: Would You Drink Hydrating Beer With Less Alcohol? | affotd

  3. Pingback: AFFotD News Item of the Month: Bud Light Mixxtail Cocktails | affotd

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s