Miller Lite Evokes Classic Positioning

CHICAGO Less than two months after the MillerCoors merger, company marketing execs have opted to tweak Miller Lite’s National Football League campaign by adding the tagline, “Great taste, less filling.”

Miller Lite will rebroadcast last year’s “More Taste League” ads once the football season starts on Sept. 4. The effort features Scrubs star John C. McGinley as “The Beer Commish.” It was created by former Lite agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky, Miami, which was replaced last year by Bartle Bogle Hegarty, New York.

Miller Lite’s most recent “Ultimate Light Beer” campaign is being abandoned altogether.

The original “Tastes great! Less filling!” TV spots showcasing comic Rodney Dangerfield and ex-jocks like Bob Uecker, Bubba Smith and Boog Powell aired in the late 1970s and ’80s.

There are no plans for a present-day version of those iconic ads, in which the celebs debated which Miller Lite attribute was superior, said a brewing company rep.

Coors Light has been steadily gaining sales since 2005, with packaging innovations that transformed “cold” into a tangible benefit and its current positioning as the “World’s Most Refreshing Beer.” Miller Lite, on the other hand, saw sales to retailers decline 1.6 percent during the second quarter.

Miller Lite was launched in 1975 and commanded more than half of all low-calorie beer sales during the 1980s. But Anheuser-Busch’s Bud Light, which debuted in 1982, became the No. 1 light beer by 1994 and today reigns as the category leader.

Miller Lite gained ground starting in 2004 with a strategy that pit it against Bud Light as the enabled challenger in a “Miller for President” campaign that poked fun at A-B ads. That challenge was extended with blind taste test promotions in bars. But the double-digit sales increases were fading by 2006, which seemed to validate A-B executives’ view that Miller Brewing was a one-trick pony.

Now, with the joint venture between SABMiller and MolsonCoors, Bud Light is facing a unified two-front battle as CMO Andy England, previously the chief marketer for Coors Brewing, advances Miller Lite with a taste message and Coors Light maintains its refreshment positioning.

“He’s done a great job with Coors Light, but now we’ll really see how good he is. He has to get Miller Lite to grow,” said an East Coast Coors distributor.

Beer wholesalers for both MillerCoors and the soon-to-be formed Anheuser-Busch InBev say their suppliers’ mantra for this summer was hold on to market share while both companies work through the pangs of reorganizing. MillerCoors is relocating its headquarters in Chicago and is still filling in management slots below the senior executives tier.