MillerCoors Seeks Sales Pop From Gen-Xers With Hard Soda

Campaign for Henry's Hard Soda Hits the Air Sunday

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In what might be an alcohol marketing first, MillerCoors has put a baby monitor in a booze ad.

The parental aid shows up in the debut campaign for the brewer's new Henry's Hard Soda brand, which is targeting Generation X consumers, including parents, with a campaign that encourages drinkers to live "Hard-ish." The goal is to lure suburbanites who have grown up, but not grown old, said Bryan Ferschinger, senior director of innovations at MillerCoors.

"They have to balance things appropriately, whether it be jobs or kids," he added. But they "have to find little ways to have fun."

One ad, called "Sunday Funday" (above), shows four parents watching a game together. They start yelling at the TV, then quickly pipe down after an infant is heard crying over a baby monitor.

The campaign, which is by Mekanism, will get significant media support as MillerCoors tries to stand out in the increasingly competitive hard soda market. The first ads start running Sunday.

The creative approach is a departure in the normally millennial-obsessed alcohol category. However, there are new signs that beer brands are beginning to age-up in their marketing -- or at least cast a wider net beyond millennials. Bud Light, for instance, is targeting a broader age group in a forthcoming campaign.

Henry's began hitting stores on Jan. 1 with ginger ale and orange flavors. The hard sodas are sweetened with cane sugar and pack a pretty mild punch with 4.2% alcohol by volume, which puts them on par with most light beers. The relatively low alcohol content means drinkers can have a few without feeling it too much the next day, which is a trait Gen Xers might find appealing. "You want to have fun, but you've got stuff to do tomorrow," Mr. Ferschinger said.

The brand also is hoping to get a pop from the emerging craft soda trend -- and the fact that a lot of Gen-Xers grew up on regular soda. If millennials are the "juicebox generation" than Gen-Xers "are the soda generation," Mr. Ferschinger said.

But MillerCoor faces plenty of competition. Other hard soda brands already in market include Small Town Brewery's Not Your Father's Root Beer. The brand, which is distributed nationally by Pabst Brewing Co., has been one of the fastest-growing brands in the malt beverage category. Coney Island Brewing Co., which is controlled by Sam Adams-maker Boston Beer Co., began selling hard root beer last summer and recently followed up with a hard ginger ale and hard orange cream ale. And Anheuser-Busch InBev in December launched a new brand called Best Damn Brewing Co., whose first product is a hard soda called Best Damn Root Beer.

While MillerCoors is playing catch-up, the brewer is seeking an advantage by pouring more ad money behind Henry's than the competition. "We are really the only brand that is going to be supporting this in a big way on a national stage," Mr. Ferschinger said.

Here is a look at another one of the ads:

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