Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Why isn't wine sold like Miller High Life?

Miller High Life beer has been running a series of ads for more than a year that categorize its drinkers as savvy people who appreciate good things -- while "the swells" do not.

Here's a typical ad: A straight-talking, overweight delivery guy barges into a suite at a baseball game. He asks if anyone knows the score. Nobody does, so he declares that he's taking the High Life. He and associates pack up the beer and leave, sometimes redistributing it to blue-collar types in cheaper seats.

I love these ads on a lot of levels. Mainly, I admire a good campaign.

People like a product that makes them feel superior to others. It's often true that "the swells" in the luxury boxes don't understand the game they're attending. So it's easy to extrapolate that the swells don't appreciate a great beer either.

Then the mind closes a gap that only a pointy-headed intellectual would say is a logical fallacy:
1) Rich people don't appreciate baseball (or racing, or whatever)
2) Rich people thus won't appreciate great beer
3) We take the High Life away
4) High Life is great beer
5) I, a superior person who really grasps the nuances of sports, am sophisticated enough to appreciate the greatness of the High Life.

That's a great campaign. My question is: Why is there nothing like this for wine?

The closest thing might be the unpretentious Yellow Tail ads -- but Yellow Tail was huge before it started advertising.

Why hasn't some company taken one of its private-label wines -- there are hundreds out there these days, fighting for shelf space -- and positioned it exactly like Miller High Life: The workingman's wine. The wine for folks who know better than those rich fools. Do it with a private-label so there's no blowback on the higher-priced wines from the same winery.

This message could resonate. Look at the comments on wine stories in any major newspaper. There are plenty of High Life wine drinkers out there, saying things like "Expensive wines aren't any better than the stuff I drink every day."

Why doesn't the Wine Group or Constellation or Bronco really go after this marketing group?


  1. That is an excellent question. Surely the "Sideways" phenomenon could translate to beer.

    Maybe the beer-drinkers are crypto-elitist in their own way (?)

  2. I think that the answer is that too many folks in the industry are those elitist swells. Years ago Glen Ellen or Vendange (or someone like that) had billboards picturing their bottle, a glass and a big plate of cheesy gooey nachos. At an Oregon industry seminar most folks in the room were outraged by the ad. "How could they show wine with something so pedestrian as NACHOS?" they screamed.
    Why not? Do they really think the average wine consumer makes demi-glace on Tuesday nights just so they can open a bottle of wine?

  3. Thanks for your comments.

    Lisa, you're absolutely right -- there is a reverse-elitism that I often hear from Budweiser and PBR drinkers.

    Toni: I hope you're not right, but I fear you might be. I think many wineries are more afraid of not being elitist enough, which is fine when you're peddling $40 Syrah, but silly when you're selling $9 red blends.