Creative + Content

It’s the Positioning Stupid, Now Pass the Beer

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Bill Winchester


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While in Boston recently I saw some Michelob transit ads that got me thinking. The campaign had headlines that went something like this:  “Think Rooftop Garden vs. Fire Escape. And, “Think Courtside vs. Nosebleed. I would characterize this as competent advertising. Not overly clever, but well executed and well strategized.

But what really got me thinking is that in this world where everyone is going just a little crazy over social networking and wringing their collective hands over what to do next, maybe it’s time to return to some basic advertising principles. And that’s what’s interesting about this campaign.

First of all, it’s for beer. One of those products that, while many have tried to create a “point-of-difference” few have succeeded. Consider the Coors “We’re colder” campaign running right now. Really? Isn’t the temperature up to me? It’s trying to invent a point-of-difference where one doesn’t’ exist. It may be relevant to people, but it’s not differentiating. Any beer that comes out of my fridge is cold. Mnemonic campaigns like this one rely on repetition to hammer the message into people’s heads and take a lot of media dollars to be successful. I’d rather be smarter.

So where is the sweet spot with a product like beer? Let’s go back to one of the very simple tenets of our business: Positioning.

The Michelob campaign does a nice job of positioning the product. And there are other beer campaigns that use this as well. The Miller campaign where the guy takes the beer away from the “high-falutin'” people is another excellent example.

The interesting thing about this advertising is it’s for a product category that, for the most part, is parity. In blind taste tests people can’t even tell their favorite beer (go ahead and argue, but try it sometime). And yet, these products have found a way to differentiate by using one of the oldest tricks in the book. Positioning.

But wait, it gets better. You can’t simply position a product with demographics, or even by narrow psychographics. You have to take a broader cut at it. What these campaigns have going for them is they all use archetypes. Michelob is positioning itself as a Ruler brand and Miller is a Regular Guy.

Archetypes are the most powerful and useful tool out there because they position and differentiate in broad context. Consumers aren’t good at nuance. Sorry to break it to you but they simply aren’t looking at your advertising that closely. Most consumers could play these beer’s positions back to you pretty succinctly. Miller, the beer for regular people. Or Michelob, the beer for achievers.

So, if you’re panicking about what to do in this new world of social network marketing, or any marketing for that matter, the first step is to figure out what archetype your brand can use most effectively. If your advertising can’t answer the question for consumers: My product is for people who _____________. You’re not there yet. The next step is to communicate that position as clearly and succinctly as possible.


Bill Winchester


Has actually won a bagpiping contest.

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