Just how low can a beer go? In calories, that is. The battle for the healthy-minded beer drinker has just escalated as MGD 64 takes on 95-calorie Michelob Ultra.
Ultra has held the oxymoronic status as the king of "active lifestyle" beer, personified by an endorsement deal with celebrity cycler Lance Armstrong. Next they created an app that identifies bike and running paths and launched it on Facebook.
Not to be outdone, or outrun, MGD 64 has just launched its Facebook app with a branded pedometer. Group challenges like “Walk Up Mount Everest 64 times,” measure a user’s steps and then the app uploads the total.
Ad Age reports that the campaign, developed by Saatchi & Saatchi, also includes a calorie-counter that charts different brands from Michelob Ultra and Bud Light to margaritas and white wine. Intentionally excluded is Budweiser Select 55.
Beer-industry experts presumed that the 55-calorie Anheuser-Busch brand would trounce Miller Coors' MGD 64. When the 64-calorie brand debuted in 2008, courtesy of Omnicom Group's Momentum Worldwide, St. Louis, the sole message was "as light as it gets."
Then the upstart appeared on the scene with a lighter calorie count—by nine. MGD 64 held its edge with a 17% increase in sales three months after Select 55’s national campaign launched.
Select 55's brand tag, the "lightest beer in the world," came out of the starting gate strong, selling 321,000 cases in the first four weeks, against 388,000 from MGD 64 who had a year’s head start.
Cannibalization is a buzz word in the beer industry, which has now turned to mathematics and pedometers to combat marketing pressures and woo consumers, but it’s trickier than it looks.
Beck launched a 64-calorie brand with little success. And then there was the George Burns Bud LA campaign in the 1980’s which also failed to get traction.
Superlight beers are traversing a slippery edge, even as the current competitors are heating up the battle with clever new apps that capture consumer’s one step at a time.
As Benj Steinman, editor of Beer Marketer's Insights, commented on the light beer category, "These are certainly faring a lot better than what came before them. [The category] may have legs."