Unraveling the Mystery of the Lady on the Miller High Life Bottle

She’s graced the brew for a century, but who is she?

The world is full of famous female advertising icons—Betty Crocker, Bounty paper towels' Rosie the waitress and, most recently, Flo, the irrepressibly perky customer service rep for Progressive insurance. Most of these characters have well-known lineages, but one brand mascot is as mysterious today as she was 109 years ago. She has no name. Nobody's sure where she came from. And yet, chances are, more men have looked at the "girl in the moon" than any other famous lady of branding. 

Photo: Nick Ferrari

Don't know who we're talking about? Grab a bottle of Miller High Life and check out the neck. You'll see a young lady with a winning smile, perched on the lip of a crescent moon, a glass of Miller High Life raised to the stars.

And that's about all we know. MillerCoors' own corporate blog will tell you that the girl in the moon "remains an enigma."

Shortly after Miller High Life made its debut in 1903, a young lady standing on a beer crate and dressed in bloomers appeared in the first ads. By 1907, Miller decided to put her on the moon instead. Some believe the rosy-cheeked young lady was supposed to be the granddaughter of Frederick Miller, the beer's founder. Another story goes that Miller's advertising man, A.C. Paul, cooked up the mascot after getting lost in the woods at night and having a vision of a young lady sitting on the moon. (Maybe he'd just downed a few too many High Lifes.)

Still another theory holds that the Miller family simply acquired a piece of art showing a lady in the moon and used it for its beer—and it's this lackluster tale that makes the most sense. Beer historian Jay Brooks, syndicated columnist for California's Bay Area News Group, points out that lunar ladies were trendy at the end of the 19th century. "Miller didn't invent the idea of a girl in the moon," he said. Canadian beer O'Keefe sported a similar logo as early as 1900, and did other brands.

Wherever moon girl is from, a MillerCoors spokesperson said she's "a very special icon for the brand and something that we use sparingly for that reason. She is meant to be a sense of discovery for the consumer and a symbol that conveys our proud history."

Fair enough. Still, at a time when craft brews are blowing the foam off the old-line brands (Miller High Life sales were down by double digits in Q4 2015), Brooks believes that the company could better realize the mascot's potential. "It's a woman, and Miller needs to reach women," he said. "She's also not exploited—she's not wearing a bikini—and that's a problem all beers have."

"The lady in the moon was a great marketing story in decades past that is now all but irrelevant," added consultant Matt Simpson, The Beer Sommelier. "But who knows? With the proper marketing strategy, she could be made fun and relevant again."

Call her the Millennial in the Moon, maybe.

This story first appeared in the April 4 issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

@UpperEastRob robert.klara@adweek.com Robert Klara is a senior editor, brands at Adweek, where he specializes in covering the evolution and impact of brands.