Beer Goggles

Sometimes even the great ones are wrong...

Reading Jerry Della Femina's 1970 best-seller, From Those Wonderful Folks Who Brought You Pearl Harbor, in which the father of anti-marketing describes how Madison Avenue learned that irreverence, smug boorishness masquerading as "candor," and a gleeful penchant for the vulgar could be even more persuasive than hype, fake sincerity, and outlandish promises, I came across this passage on the prospects of a new product category at that time, light beer:

The thing about Gablinger's was that it was very low in calories, and the thought was, "We'll sell this to all those guys who drink beer and want to lose weight." Somewhere, somehow, they blew it. Somebody in research made the first mistake, which was thinking that beer drinkers wanted to lose weight while drinking beer. Not true...

While Della Femina goes on to say that the potential for a successful mass-market light beer is nil because "beer drinkers want to be fat," he also grants that there's a possible niche market for it as a "carriage trade product," purchased by "the lady who in Gristede's" who "might pick up one six-pack because she likes the notion it's low on calories."

Well, while I've never heard of Gristede's, I guess there were a few more lady shoppers going there than Della Femina had imagined. Twenty-seven years after his quick dismissal of the light beer product category, Miller Lite alone boasts annual sales of approximately $400 million.

-- G. Beato

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