Big Beer Still Can’t Figure Out How to Make Young People Like Them

By Mike Pomranz |

© iStockphoto

Craft beer sales continue to grow and big beer sales continue to sink. So what do America’s biggest beer brands have to do to turn things around? Apparently, no one is entirely sure.

Bloomberg Business recently looked into how Anheuser-Busch InBev and MillerCoors are trying to “sell to consumers who hate them,” as the business site puts it—working under the premise that millennials, “the roughly 115 million Americans born from 1980 to 2000,” are averse to everything from marketing by giant brands to beer in general (overall, wine and liquor sales have continued to grow as beer sales drop).

The reported solutions (if you want to call them that) run the gamut from buying up independent brewers, to focusing on “authenticity and heritage, being genuine” (as MillerCoors’s Scott Whitley puts it), to rolling out more hard soda. It’s an unfocused, at times paradoxical list. “Millennials are the most marketed-to generation ever and they know it,” said Whitley, head of Tenth and Blake, MillerCoors’s craft and import division. “You don’t force anything on them. You let them come to you.”

Along those same lines, Anheuser-Busch’s vice president of marketing Jorn Socquet even says he plans to do less marketing for one of their new products, possibly avoiding TV advertising altogether. “If you look at millennial brands that today are at the top of their preferred list, most of the time the advertising budget of those brands is zero,” says Socquet.

Just a suggestion here: If what Socquet says is true, it sounds like maybe the most effective solution would be for all these marketing guys to give up their paychecks.

Related: Meet the Man Running One of the Best Breweries You've Never Heard of 
The 5 Best Ciders at New York's Ciderfeast 
How to Tell if You're a Beer Geek or a Beer Snob