CORONA CAPTURES HISPANIC MARKET, SETS A NEW PACE. BEER: MILLER AND BUSCH TAILOR TACTICS TO FOLLOW 12TH BEST-SELLER

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Corona extra, the hot-selling imported brew from Mexico, has rocked the beer world.

The brew passed Heineken to become the No. 1 beer import last year, and its popularity has helped prompt the major domestic brewers to create new ad campaigns and brands aimed at the Hispanic audience.

"I would argue Corona has opened some eyes to that category," says Tom McNichols, exec VP-marketing for Barton Beers, one of the two importers of Corona. It distributes the beer in the western U.S. while fellow importer Gambrinus Co. handles the eastern U.S. and Texas.

At Gambrinus, Mr. McNichols' counterpart is Marketing Director Ron Christesson.

FUN IN THE SUN

Corona sales grew 36% to 39.3 million cases in 1997, according to industry newsletter Impact. The importers and beer wholesalers attribute the brew's popularity to the growth of the U.S. Hispanic population and the growing popularity of Mexican cuisine in mainstream America.

Another factor has been the consistency of Corona's marketing over the years. The laid-back "Change your whole latitude" campaign, the sponsorship of Jimmy Buffett and other promotions have helped create a fun-in-the-sun image for the brand.

SPENDING GOES UP

The importers are spending about $22 million to advertise the brew this year, $10 million of which is a joint budget for national TV. They each spend about $6 million in additional regional support.

Lois/EJL, Chicago, handles national TV advertising as well as regional work for Barton. Richards Group, Dallas, handles regional work for Gambrinus and will start contributing to the national TV pool.

While Corona is the 12th best-selling beer in the country and isn't close to overtaking any of the major domestic brews, it still is causing fits for Miller Brewing Co. and Anheuser-Busch. While their light beers continue to grow, full-calorie brews Budweiser and Miller Genuine Draft are slipping.

Guided by company heir-apparent and VP-marketing August Busch IV, A-B has spent 1998 pumping up advertising, introducing new humorous spots for Budweiser as well as a new series of sports-related ads featuring the Bud blimp.

The brewer also has been busy overhauling its Hispanic marketing strategy, last month folding its Hispanic efforts into the general-market thrust.

LEADERS DEVELOP HISPANIC BREWS

Anheuser-Busch is testing new products designed to chip away at Corona. One is Azteca, a new brand brewed in Texas, and the other is Tequiza, a tequila-flavored beverage.

Miller, steered by VP-Marketing Jack Rooney, is continuing to focus on core brands Lite and Genuine Draft. As part of that effort, Mr. Rooney last year scrapped Miller's ethnic marketing unit and has sought to integrate a spectrum of ethnic groups in commercials for the brands.

The brewer also has stepped up regional promotions that target specific Hispanic groups and has marketed Presidente, an import from the Dominican Republic, in New York and Miami.

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