Friday, May 24, 2013

A Question of Loyalty

Hot on the heels of the realization that I am an un-loyal brand consumer,* contributor and brand research consultant, Robert Passikof has listed how well and to what degree the large breweries on the American market are engaging customers with their brands. Passikof's company Brand Keys, uses predictive behavior in determining brand equity and loyalty as an indicator of profitability. The list compares—what Pasikoff refers to as—"regular" strength and light beer brands. The top six spots for the "regulars" are:
"Fredo, don't forget to bring a sixer of
Sam for the fishing trip."

1. Coors/Sam Adams**: 90%
2. Heineken/Miller**: 88%
3. Budwesier: 85%
4. Busch: 83%
5. Corona: 80%
6. Michelob: 78%

The top for the light beer category:

1. Coors Light: 89%
2. Amstel Light: 88%
3. Sam Adams Light: 85%
4. Bud Light: 83%
5. Corona Light: 80%
6. Busch Light: 78%

A few changes from last year— Heineken and Miller rose two and five spots—respectively—and Budweiser jumped five spots from number eight, last year, to number three, this year. Neither Stella nor Guinness made the top six this year—Stella falling from last year's number two spot and Guinness dropping of the list from five. Corona also fell, but stayed within the top six—from three to five. 

On the light beer front, Coors Light trumped Sam Adams Light, moving from second last year to first this year—booting Sammy to third. Amstel blasted up from the seven spot to fill the Coors Light void, and Corona Light usurped Natural Light in the five spot—dropping the later from the list all together.

Keep in mind these lists aren't ranking the best-selling beers. Consumer loyalty engagement percentages are predicting the drinkers habits. Basically it's data, obtained via survey, that determines if a consumer is drinking the same beer as they did a year ago, or if they've switched to another brand.

Sam Adams is particularly interesting in this scenario—least of which is because it's the lone craft brew on the list. Sam Adams has consistently ranked at the top of the consumer loyalty lists for the last five years. According to a 2012 article about customer loyalty, by 24/7 Wall St. on, Sam Adams ranked second out 11 brands who received the highest Brand Keys scores in relation to those brands ideal ranking, from that year—and not just beer brands either—Costco, NBC Nightly News, and Purina also made the list with the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare video game franchise placing first. The article notes that Sam Adams had a product score/ideal ranking of 97.3%, and a loyalty score of 130—just 3.5 points shy of the category's ideal score of 133.5 points. The article continues:
Proof that you don't have to be among the biggest to be among the best: Sam Adams has a quite small market share compared to the top-selling brands in the light beer arena -- less than 2% in 2010, according to Beverage Industry Magazine. At least six other light beers are more widely consumed. However, according to the Brand Keys survey, those who drink it have a lot of good things to say about the Massachusetts brew. According to respondents, the Sam Adams Light rates highly as being suitable for drinking in different times and places, for being easy to drink and well made, and for having an "invigorating taste."
Although an "invigorating taste" might be marketing frima-framas, it appears that the people have spoken, and the evidence is pretty clear where folks loyalties lie. A few question arise, however. Is Sam Adams' ranking a result of the craft beer biz and the loyalty to what that industry may tout as a commitment to quality, or simply a testament to the marketing prowess of Boston Beer Company? Second to that, does a rising tide lift all boats? Will we see more increased profitability in the craft beer industry due to product loyalty? Are Sierra Nevada fans only loyal to Sierra Nevada? Are there Fat Tire-ists or Heady Topper-ites? Is the loyalty issue brand-based or craft-based in the world of micro breweries?

I don't know, but if I'm any indication my loyalties seem to lie with my taste buds. Although, I do wish I had grabbed some Boston Beer Company stock back in 1995.

*The more I think about this, I've realized that I can't remember the last time I bought a packaged quantity of a single style—or offering from a single brewery for that matter—in what seems like forever. 

**As far as I can discern, Sam Adams equates to Boston Lager, while Miller means Miller Genuine Draft.

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