George Killian's Irish Red has had a tough time deciding what to say about itself in recent years, and with good reason. The 145-year-old brand has an Irish heritage but isn't quite an import (these days it's brewed domestically and isn't available in Ireland), and it's more expensive than premium beers but isn't quite a craft.
Life as a high-end beer that's neither an import nor a craft has taken its toll: In 2000, the brand shipped 725,000 barrels; in 2009, it shipped 310,000, according to Beer Marketer's Insights.
Sales fell 15% last year.
Given those dire numbers, MillerCoors, which markers Killian's, has opted to essentially relaunch the brand with a simpler, sort-of-true message: It's "Deliciously Irish."
Irish tends to be a pretty good positioning to hold these days. Jameson's Irish Whiskey is just about the hottest spirits brand going and Guinness remains a potent force in the imported beer space. And however it turns out, no one will be able to say Killian's didn't do everything short of swapping out its bottle seals for leprechaun caps in an attempt to paint itself green.
Not only is the brand renewing its tradition of bringing descendants of founder George Killian Lett across the pond for St. Patrick's Day, it's even holding a contest online to give away a house in his hometown of Enniscorthy. "You've all gone mad," 82-year-old George Killian Lett says in an online video produced for the effort posted to the brand's Facebook page. "You're supposed to give away coasters, not cottages. But we're Irish, and we don't do anything small."
In addition to Mr. Killian's pitching for new neighbors, the Facebook hub for the effort also includes dispatches from his 24-year-old grandson George Killian Lett's first tour of the U.S.
The younger Mr. Lett said he hoped to raise the profile of the brand by becoming a social-media personality in the same way Miller High Life's beer-truck driving deliveryman, Windell Middlebrooks, has built an online following for his witticisms.
"We want it to get back to where it was originally, to be a prominent beer," he said.