The brand's shipments declined 10.5% in 2005, while beer imports overall, led by Corona and Heineken, grew 7.2%, according to trade journal Beer Marketer's Insights. Since 2000, Foster's shipments are down 29.9%; imports overall are up 27.9%.
Given that disparity, executives at SABMiller, which imports Foster's to the U.S. as part of a joint venture with Australia-based Foster's Group, are eager to apply lessons from their rivals' success as they relaunch the brand in the U.S. and try to appeal to younger drinkers.
Corona and Heineken
"We've gone to school on Corona and Heineken," said Gary Cattell, SAB's brand director for Foster's. "Both of those brands were moved off of geographic positioning. Corona is a holiday in a bottle. Heineken is centered around nightlife. And we want to emphasize sociability."
To do that, Foster's is scrapping its long-held "Australian for beer" tagline in favor of "Crack open a friendly." It's also abandoning TV for an online campaign and maybe some limited outdoor advertising from WPP Group's Ogilvy & Mather.
Central to the campaign is a major sponsorship of Heavy.com's dating game. "That website is built around friendship and sociability," Mr. Cattell said. "It epitomizes what Australia is about ... and it's slanted right at our target."
Mr. Cattell said Foster's woes are partly due to the brand's aging demographic. Foster's wants the "six-pack drinkers" at the young end of the legal-drinking spectrum, but its median age has drifted into the 30s.
The media shift can also be attributed to Foster's shrinking ad budget. Media spending fell from about $15 million in 2001 to about $5 million last year. "This allows us to be more efficient," Mr. Cattell said.
Foster's greatest challenge may be overcoming an apparent lack of interest in Australia. Other struggling Aussie-themed marketers, such as Outback Steakhouse, have learned the climate is a far cry from the days when Paul Hogan was a major box-office draw and throwing a "shrimp on the barbie" was part of the lexicon.
"There's just a lot more interest in brands from Latin America and Eastern Europe right now," said Harry Schumacher, editor of Beer Business Daily. "The whole 'Crocodile Dundee' thing has lost its cachet, and so has that brand."