Miller, A-B miss the point ... again

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Chill out, Miller and Anheuser-Busch.

In seeking-again-to bottle a bit of Corona Extra's lightning, the two beer giants provide a case study in what not to do when confronted with a successful, if smaller, competitor.

What the large breweries are chasing after, with launches of Miller's Chill and Land Shark Lager and A-B's Chelada, is authenticity, and authenticity isn't something you can just brew up in a lab and slap with a derivative label.

Consumers see through that, and if anything, manufactured authenticity only threatens to undermine whatever brand strengths existed in the first place.

Sure, the upstart import's fast-growth success is impressive: Corona's shipments grew 10.5% between 2003 and 2005. But rather than simply copy the niche brand, Miller and A-B should recognize in the Corona phenomenon the value of strong brand positioning and unwavering focus on staying the course.

Corona's got it right: The "vacation in a bottle" is the only beer (Sam Adams aside) that has consistently tried to own a really clear position in this market. It owns sunshine, it owns beaches, it is-to steal its tagline-miles away from ordinary beers.

It's what Corona is and always has been, and that singularity of purpose is what keeps bringing beer drinkers back for more. In fact, if the goal is to tap into the Hispanic beer-drinking market with authentic brands, A-B and Miller would be better served pushing the true imports they already have in their back pockets, like Modelo, of which A-B has a 49%-ownership stake, or the Peruvian brew Cusquena that Miller's just started importing.

These days too many brands are afraid that a clear, narrow position limits them, but Corona's success is a lesson for all marketers: Stop trying to be everything to everyone. Those days are over. Start focusing on finding your authentic niche. Spend your time and money on leveraging the unique positioning that you do own.

If you're going to copy anything, Miller and A-B, copy that.
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