- Coors Light today unveiled what it says is the first-ever "smart" beer tap handle, which will monitor social media and broadcast media channels in real time for Bud Light's activity. The beer tap handle will light up when it detects Bud Light attacking Coors Light, a sign that the next round of Coors Light is on the brand.
- Starting Friday, March 22, the tap handle will be active in select bars in New York, Dallas, Philadelphia, Las Vegas and Omaha. In key locations around the country, Coors Light will buy a round of beer whenever a Bud Light ad appears on the TV screen in that location. A 30-second video spot on YouTube about the activation was produced by DDB.
- The campaign stems from Bud Light’s Super Bowl spot, where it trolled its competitors, including Coors Light and Miller Light, for using corn syrup. A recent survey of consumers by Coors Light revealed that 80% of premium light drinkers would rather enjoy a beer than continue to worry about the ingredients in it.
Coors Light is turning its competitor’s trolling into an opportunity to connect with drinkers over free beer. The quirky "smart" tap handle is part of the brand’s efforts to respond to what it's calling the "beer wars" and spread the message that consumers care more about enjoying beer rather than seeing brands take jabs at each other.
Marketing stunts where one brand hijacks another's media have become popular with brands as they strive to stand out. For example, Cars.com successfully inserted itself into Twitter conversations about other brands' Super Bowl ads with custom creative, thereby capitalizing on the popular live event without buying ad during the broadcast. Such initiatives often attract media attention and social media traffic, which helps boost brand awareness and can translate to sales.
Beer brands are also betting on technology to deepen engagements with consumers. Another beer brand, Busch, unveiled Busch button around the holidays, enabling consumers to drown out awkward or uncomfortable conversations. The device said the brand’s name in a soothing way to help people get back to enjoying their time with friends and family.
The "smart" tap handle isn’t the only way Coors Light responded to AB InBev-owned Bud Light’s criticism over its use of corn syrup. Parent company MillerCoors purchased a full-page ad in The New York Times after the Super Bowl to call out Bud Light and highlight that Miller Lite is made with corn syrup but has fewer calories than Bud Light. The company has also called attention to the fact that Budweiser uses high-fructose corn syrup in some of its products.
Beer brands strive to gain favor with consumers and stand out at a time when beer sales are seeing declines. Total beer volume dropped 1.1% in 2017 to 2.8 billion 2.25-gallon cases, marketing the fifth consecutive decline in total U.S. beer consumption, according to the Beverage Information Group. Light beer saw the biggest declines, at 3.1%, as craft beer showed the biggest increase, growing 4.9% to 310 million cases.
MillerCoors recently named its first-ever female CMO, Michelle St. Jacques, who joined the company after a tenure at Kraft Heinz. MillerCoors said it plans to ramp up its marketing this year, with a focus on digital and non-traditional media, including experiences, social media and long-form content. MillerCoors also is putting the agency roster for Coors Light under review, as the brand aims to reach 21- to 34-year-old drinkers and engage with consumers in what says will be new and disruptive ways.