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Opening Pandora’s Box

Sometimes it seems women are from Venus and marketers from Mars, particularly those working in the beer category

Mary Lewis Lewis Moberly

Less than 12 months after their introduction, and within weeks of each other, two of the most recent attempts to make women fall in love with beer, Carlsberg’s Eve and Molson Coors’ Animée, have failed.

Eve and Animée had been developed to target what Molson Coors described as a £396mn gap in the market created by only 13% of women in the UK consuming beer.

Eve was a light low alcohol beer flavored with lychees and passion fruit. While Animée came in three flavours; clear, lemon, and rosé, and was pitched as a lower carbonated beer to avoid drinkers feeling bloated.

The mistake is to believe that the secret to lager for ladies, is to give us something pretty, pink, fruity, and sweet, that won’t make us feel or be fat…

I’m sure there are many reasons women don’t drink beer, but doubt it is because beer isn’t pink enough.

At launch Molson Coors heralded Animée as an exciting opportunity to break down the barriers between women and beer. A spokesperson said “the brand plan and the product design are feminine and sophisticated without being patronising.”

Molson Coors clearly spent time finding out why women aren’t drinking beer, conducting an insight programme with over 30,000 women to decide what would make them change their minds.

Similarly, Carlsberg’s research indicated that after trying the product, over 87% of women would buy Eve.

But they didn’t…

What both these brands seem to have identified is that the key barrier to consumption amongst women is taste. 

But is there really such a mismatch between the taste of beer and what women are looking for?  Other markets indicate not.

While only 13% of beer in the UK is drunk by women, women represent a quarter of all consumption in the US, a third in Ireland and nearly half of all beer drunk in Spain.  That suggests there is very little biologically that prevents women from drinking beer.

The question seems to be, does a beer brand need to be overtly feminine to attract a female audience?

The excellent book “Inside her pretty little head” written by two leading female marketers, analyses sectors through the lens of female motivation and argues the critical difference is the way women process the information and stimulus brands project – the brand’s body language.

According to research undertaken at Yale University in the early 90’s, women on average possess more tastebuds than men.  And Marcia Pelchat, a sensory psychologist specializing in food and beverages at the Monell Chemical Senses Center concludes that on average, women have a better sense of smell than men. Both taste and smell contribute to the perception of flavour.

So while men might prize relatively benign thirst-quenching imagery, maybe women appreciate a more layered and complex taste delivery.  And with the wine market as an example, not necessarily one overloaded by sweet, fruity flavours.

Pilsner Urquell has recognized this, introducing different flavour profiles such as ‘The Milko’ – a small measure of beer poured so that the foam almost fills the glass, not only looking amazing but creating a beautiful aroma – Czech women love it.

We have consistently found women are particularly adept at decoding brand cues, particularly in social situations where brand choice sends out strong message about who you are.

Women are master semioticians.  They care about how they, and their world are presented. The details really matter.

If a brand presents itself carelessly, it suggests the contents are not worthy of care. If something is beautifully designed, it is likely to be something that is itself beautiful, something valued and of value.

In terms of brand story, research indicates the male brain is predominantly hard-wired for understanding and building systems, the female brain is predominantly hard-wired for empathy.

Men understand the world (and brands) by breaking them down into their component parts i.e. hard facts like 4% abv, and establishing principles like ‘Stella Artois is only brewed with the best female Saaz hops’ that explain underlying behaviour or performance. 

Women filter stimulus by putting themselves in other people’s shoes, feeling the emotional atmosphere, responding to stories and experiences... 

A strong underlying brand story and experience that evokes a mood and takes women on a journey into the brand plays an important role in balancing style and substance and providing aspiration for female targeted brands.

Ultimately adhering to these rules of thumb will create a brand with body language which works with the way women process information and stimulus.  But it doesn’t mean overtly excluding those with a Y chromosome. 

It could be that a different starting place for development, creates a fresh, highly distinctive and popular beer brand chosen by both sexes.

Vive la difference.


9 September 2013