Brews who?

31 Jan 2012|Added Value

You are what you drink.

As a way of understanding the culture of a country, the role that beer plays within it is not a bad place to start. Beer is unrivalled in the variety of needs it meets for drinkers;  the individual, the social, the wind up, the wind down. To be locally relevant Global breweries must understand the importance of and context in which these needs are satisfied in each market.

In Russia, a country which unbelievably only defined beer as an alcoholic drink in July last year, nine in ten times where beer is drank are at home. The most important need that beer satisfies. To relax and wind down, enhance the mood of the drinker and to forget about daily problems at least for a moment.

In contrast, nearly half of all Italian beer drinking happens in pubs, bars and restaurants. Playing fantastically to their stereotype, the most important need beer has to satisfy for Italians is to go well with food.  The most important taste characteristic a beer can have is to be perfect with pizza. As the American Columnist Dave Barry once wrote on beer, ‘I grant you that the wheel was also a fine invention, but the wheel does not go nearly as well with pizza.”

Of course this doesn’t tell us the whole story. It would be disingenuous to conclude that all Russians are downbeat and desperate. Or that all Italians are pizza-loving socialites.

On a recent visit to Russia I met Yevgeniy, a railway worker who enjoyed fishing and hunting. He drank beer every night to relieve stress and reflect on his day. On the same day I met Oleg, an executive who liked motorsport and politics. He drank less regularly but was also motivated by a need to relax, relieve stress and have some quality down time.

 Tellingly, the brand used by each to relieve stress was very different.

Yevgeniy opted for Oxota, a brand with a man hunting as its logo, the tagline ‘strong beer for strong man’ and an ABV of 8%. Yevgeniy bought this brand because it literally reflected who he was and what he imagined his idol Vladimir Putin would drink.  In contrast, Oleg drank Tuborg. He believed that imported beer represented higher quality and taste credentials and provided the reassurance that it would enhance his brief moment of ‘me time’.

And therein lies the challenge for breweries. It’s not enough to understand what needs are being met by beer. Consumers don’t meet needs in a universal way. The search for opportunities in beer must therefore marry the reasons for drinking with how specific people satisfy these needs. Brands positioned without this in mind risk leaving the consumer with a glass half empty.


By Tom Wells, Associate Director, Added Value UK

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