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Other brewers that have tried targetting new customer segments include Anheuser-Busch InBev, who set out to win over women in 2015 with a Super Bowl ad campaign involving Bud Light (above).

MillerCoors invents a generation for its beer

Mar 16, 2018 5:50 AM

MILLERCOORS has invented a generation that's younger than millennials but old enough to legally imbibe.

The purpose is to sell more beer, which has been losing business to wine and hard liquor for a decade. MillerCoors, the US division of Molson Coors Brewing Co, is gearing its marketing to 21- to 24-year-olds, a slice of the population the company characterises as "curious," "pragmatic" and still virginal when it comes to drinking beer.

Demographers would say this cohort is part of the millennial generation, which outnumbers the baby boomers and is defined by the US Census Bureau as people born between 1982 and 2000. But MillerCoors says there are important differences between millennials and the new generation the beermaker created but hasn't named.

"There's just this more openness versus what we've seen with millennials," said Sofia Colucci, senior director of innovation at MillerCoors. "They're curious and while they're pragmatic, they still have this genuine openness to discovering and trying new things."

These attributes apparently haven't extended, even on a hot summer evening, to some of them ever sipping an icy cold mug of suds, Ms Colucci said.

"Once they're of a legal drinking age, they might never even have had beer, which is different than what we've seen in the past," Ms Colucci said.

Baby boomers are defined as having been born from 1946 to 1964. They're followed by so-called Generation X, whose birthdays run from 1965 to 1981.

Then came the millennials, which comprise 83 million people, or about one-quarter of the US population, according to the US Census. Those that MillerCoors categorises separately from millennials would have entered the world from 1993 to 1997, roughly President Bill Clinton's first term, a time when Internet use was spreading, Hootie & the Blowfish ruled the pop-music charts and big beer brands were still hip.

The product MillerCoors is pushing is called Two Hats, a light beer imbued with fruit flavours. The company said the tagline - "Good, cheap beer. Wait what?" - was taken directly from responses of drinkers in this newly distinct age group.

Allen Adamson, co-founder of the product consultant Metaforce, defended splitting up the millennial generation. He said 21-year-olds are probably not making major decisions on items like cars or homes, which are the focus of older millennials.

Instead, the younger people are likely showing off their individual preferences with purchases like beverages and clothing.

"The whole lens of a 21-year-old is different in how you connect with them than a 28-year-old," Mr Adamson said. Still, the challenge with appealing to such a narrow demographic is it's a quickly moving target, he said.

Two Hats isn't the first time a beer company has created a product to target specific consumers it's identified as underserved.

MillerCoors rival Anheuser-Busch InBev NV set out to win over women in 2015 with a Super Bowl ad campaign built around the idea that coming together over a Bud Light can help solve the world's problems, including unequal pay for females. Attempts to attract women also led to the introduction of new products, such as the Bud Light Lime-A-Rita.

The same year, MillerCoors said that making beer more "gender friendly" could add about 5 million barrels to sales by 2020. The Chicago-based unit of Molson Coors, which at the time was a joint venture between Molson Coors and SAB Miller plc, added products to appeal to women, such as Henry's Hard Sodas, fruit-flavoured shandies and gluten-free beer.

Women, however, didn't flock. Nor did health-conscious consumers, though they're helping boost smaller-volume brands such as gluten-free Michelob Ultra and Sparkling Seltzer. Young millennials may be the industry's last hope.

"We're really doing this as a way to grow affinity for beer," Ms Colucci said. "Then, as they evolve, as they drink Two Hats, the idea is that they'll start to evolve their preferences and they can start to grow into other beers within our portfolio." BLOOMBERG