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Breweries' blokey battle in beer marketing war

Iron Jack. The Sip

So beer is just about blokes after all.

Despite the strong anecdotal evidence that a couple of females once enjoyed a brew, the beer-making game is all about winning over men.

That was the pitch that came from one of the biggest beer suppliers in the land this week when Lion, through its recently-formed subsidiary Legendary Brewing Company.– yes another brewery under a Big Brewery – released Iron Jack Lager

You can just imagine the Lion marketing team jumping around the room with high fives all round in joy after deciding the name for the latest offshoot.

It is believed the cry, “Whoever thought up that name was a deadest legend,” was uttered by one of the lads managing Lion’s all-male focus groups. (Note: Fake News!)

Iron Jack could well be an homage to that late uncle who showed his nephews a few tricks out in the bush during the Easter school holidays.

And blow us off a dry perch with a wet wind but that is exactly the tale behind the brew that Lion, sorry, Legendary BC want to portray.

Iron Jack. The Sip

“We saw a great opportunity to create a storytelling brand that took inspiration from, and celebrated, our country and its many characters. Spinning a yarn is a great Australian pasttime, it’s ingrained in our culture,” said Lion brand director Jack Mesley. Yes, Jack is indeed his first name.

“We know drinkers want to buy brands that resonate with their own values or inspire them in some way. We want to encourage Aussie men to get out and explore the great outdoors, have an adventure and create stories that will build their own personal legend.”

And that means being a bloke doing blokey things with other blokes. There isn’t an Iron Jill on offer here. Iron Jack’s branding features a rugged male in an Akubra passing spinifex with his dog. Can’t get any more fair dinkum matey than that!

Under the Iron Jack bottle tops the Lion Legends have put the latitude and longitude coordinates for 100 remote camping, fishing and 4WD-ing locations in the country - as well as some classic Aussie pubs for good measure.

“It’s up to people to get out there and find them!” says the Lion marketing.

Sounds like a boys’ trip to us.

But as much as we can have a lend of Lion over its very masculine marketing for Iron Jack, the approach is targeting the biggest sector of the Australian beer market. And that means guys.

According to Roy Morgan research, in the year to March 2016, 5.3 million Australian men (or 58.8% of the adult male population) drank some kind of beer – premium, imported and/or standard; low-alcohol and/or full-strength – in an average four weeks, compared to 1.7 million women (18.2%).

In her consumer research for Curtin University titled The Beer-Drinking Female, Simone Pettigrew wrote, “One of the most important symbolic functions of beer in Australian culture is to communicate the differences between males and females.

“Australians are exposed early to the male symbolism of beer, and they come to know unquestioningly that beer is a male beverage. They have obtained this ‘knowledge’ through a variety of sources, including their families, their peers, and the media.”

Admittedly this was written last decade. But the Big Beer producers are still on safe ground.

Roy Morgan reported two years ago that XXXX Gold (3.5%) was one of the three best-selling beers among men. Now our Brews News friends in the east report XXXX Gold’s standing has been seriously undermined by CUB’s ragingly successful Great Northern release, the Crisp Lager (3.5%).

Great Northern has taken giant strides in a short time. You’ll recall that brew. It is the one publicised by pictures of three fellows out fishing or sitting beside the campfire miles from civilisation.

Great Northern. CUB. The Sip

As a very senior CUB executive told The Sip recently the biggest growth for Big Beer is the 3.5-4.2% ABV easy drinking range. They are the consumers who like to imbibe on significantly more than one beer in a session. And they buy by the carton meaning greater stock movements. That results in cash for the Big Brewery and everyone is a legend.

Our CUB man (or woman) said 4.2% was the new 5% because males wanted to drink six-packs without the physical impacts. But the marketing emphasis hasn’t changed very much.

The great beer commercials of the 1970s and 1980s didn’t have too many ladies in their marketing research programs.

However, it is madness to believe women don’t like beer and, indeed, make a significant contribution to the industry as workers and drinkers. Didn’t a female, Hildegard von Bingen, discover in the 12th century that hops were a great preservative for beer? Cheers to Hildegard.

We won’t identify a sample of female brewers who can more than hold their own against any male counterpart in this country. That would be patronising because they succeeded not for or against their gender but because they were damn good brewers.

Australia has produced lady Certified Cicerones and any session of the GABS Festival in Melbourne, pic below, each year seems like a 50-50 gender split. So the prevalence of women drinkers (and marketers, sales and admin staff, chemists and tasters) in the craft beer space is far greater.

Maybe it is because the sector doesn’t pitch to demographics. It strives for taste first and if that is good enough then anyone can like it. The independent beer door is open for everyone. As the sector grows, and becomes bigger than its current 11%, it should force a change in the antiquated focus on just men.

It could also be the chicken or the egg factor for Iron Jack, XXXX Gold and Great Northern. Do women shun the beers because they are marketed to men?

We’ll ask some of the Iron Jack drinkers the question when they get back from the footy team fishing trip to Steep Point.


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