Beer giants have lost big by ignoring women — now they're trying to win them back
After decades of commercials aimed at young men starring beer-chugging bros and scantily clad women, beverage industry giants are changing their approach.
On Monday, Anheuser-Busch InBev announced that, for the first time ever, it was launching a brand marketed exclusively to women, with a rebrand of its Lime-A-Rita line.
"There are very few [alcohol] brands that connect authentically with women," Selena Kalvaria, the senior director for Lime-A-Rita, told Business Insider. "We wanted this to be a brand not only for women, but by women."
In an effort to further what Kalvaria called the brand's "for us, by us" position, the marketing team, brewmasters, and agency partners behind the revamp were all women. The commercial campaign is directed by Tricia Brock, who has directed episodes of shows such as 'Gossip Girl', 'Orange is the New Black', and 'Girls'.
Since AB InBev launched as Bud Light Lime-A-Rita in 2012, women have made up 65% of the brand's buyers, despite the company's co-ed marketing strategy. Now, as the beer giant's first brand marketed exclusively to women, Kalvaria says Lime-A-Rita has the chance to help AB InBev's wider efforts to win over the group — a demographic that beer companies have historically failed to attract.
American women drink 120 million barrels of wine and spirits every year, as well as 30 million barrels of beer, according to Kalvaira.
"This is not a niche opportunity," she said.
However, beer is less popular than wine and spirits among American women, with 36% of women saying they drink beer, versus 38% drinking spirits and 56% drinking wine, according to Nielsen Scarborough data.
From industry giants to craft breweries, beer brands are attempting to ditch their dude-centric image, both behind the scenes and in marketing.
Female brewers are gaining power, with groups such as the Pink Boots Society connecting women in the beer industry and women filling five of AB InBev's 12 brewmaster positions. In marketing, even stereotypically bro-ey beers have begun pushing gender-neutral humor instead of ads dominated by babes in bars. Even Bud Light — which came under fire in 2015 for an ad many saw as promoting rape — has recently aired an ad centered around the wage gap.
"Consumers are changing, society is changing, and there is an opportunity for the brand to change," Bud Light vice president Alexander Lambrecht told Business Insider in 2016. "If we want to remain as relevant... we have to move with the times."
However, marketing alone isn't enough to win over female drinkers. Sweeter alternatives to beer — like Lime-A-Ritas and hard sodas — are some of the fastest growing brands in the alcoholic beverage industry, especially amongst women. With the Lime-A-Rita redesign, AB InBev attempts to appeal to women in both advertising and simply by giving them an alternative to beer.
"We think that this plays a strategic role for Anheuser-Busch to move beyond beer and compete in other categories," Kalvaria said.
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