Vortex Bottle, Taste Tests On Tap From MillerCoors 

MillerCoors, coming off a year where overall unit sales slipped 1.7 percent, is introducing a slew of new advertising and product innovations to take on foe Anheuser-Busch.

MillerCoors execs met with wholesalers last week in Las Vegas to show off some of the new campaigns and products. Chief among the new innovations is something called Miller Vortex, a bottle with specially designed interior grooves that “create a vortex as you’re pouring the beer,” according to a rep, who explained that the brand’s goal is to “create buzz and excitement and give consumers another reason to choose Miller.” The Vortex bottle, which begins hitting shelves this month, will be supported by advertising from DraftFCB.

Another new entry on the product front is Miller Home Draft. Reminiscent of a beer ball, it aims to provide tap-beer taste at home. Also making its debut is a 16 oz. Coors Aluminum Pint (like the Vortex bottle, it will be backed by advertising via DraftFCB) and a Coors Light Cold Activated Window 12-pack. The signature silver cans feature a mountain range rendered in a special thermochromatic ink that turns blue when the cans chill to optimal imbibing temperature.

In addition to the new product entries, MillerCoors is planning to launch an on-premise program called “Bet on Taste” that will let consumers compare Miller Lite to other beers, Pepsi-Challenge style.

On the advertising front, the brewer plans to continue Miller Lite’s “Taste Greatness” campaign with new ads that continue to celebrate macho Miller Lite drinkers (in an earlier ad, one man is dumbstruck when asked to choose between saving his girlfriend or a Miller Lite if both were hanging off a cliff). A new ad in the series, called “Wedding Registry,” will cover similar thematic ground, going so far as to feature an online store where men can register their weddings—and to receive Miller Lite gifts, of course. Another new ad plays on the phenomenon of man-purses.

For MGD 64, a product that made IRI’s list of the top launches of 2009 with $52.8 million in sales (excluding Walmart), the brewer will launch what it terms an “aggressive” campaign from Saatchi & Saatchi  that will compare the beer to A-B’s Michelob Ultra—rather than A-B’s 55-calorie Select 55—with the new tagline, “Have your beer and enjoy it too.”

Finally, MillerCoors will introduce a new campaign for Keystone Light featuring an “always smooth” spokesman named Keith Stone. New ads from Saatchi featuring the cool, laid-back rep will run nationally—a first for the brand.

The flurry of activity comes after sales of Coors Light rose 0.7 percent, Miller Lite’s fell 6.6 percent, High Life’s rose 3.9 percent and Miller Genuine Draft’s fell 18 percent in units in 2009, per Beer Marketer’s Insights. Sales for Keystone and Blue Moon rose 14.3 percent and 7 percent, respectively, for the period.