Brandtrack: Bottling up lager sales

This month BrandTrack looks at the on-trade in bottled lagers. Faced with increasingly fickle consumers – driven by fashion trends and the desire for novelty – brands are having to deploy massive budgets to stay in contention.

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Brands bought

Respondents named 40 brands that they had bought during July; 16 by at least five per cent of drinkers. This level of brand penetration is unusual, even in an indulgence market where sales are frequent, and indicates considerable repertory drinking.

Budweiser dominates the market, achieving 44 per cent penetration. Unlike the flat age profiles of the other major brands, Budweiser and Labatt have a strong skew to the 18 to 24 age group. Foster’s and Budweiser are more popular with southern drinkers, Holsten with northerners. But the brand with the most pronounced regionality is Tennents, which takes 65 per cent of its buyers from Scotland.

C2DE drinkers appear to have larger repertoires than the higher social grades, and most of the top brands have higher penetration in this group. Holsten, for example, has nearly two-thirds of its drinkers in this category. Budweiser is the only major brand with a higher penetration among upmarket buyers.

Reasons for purchase

Loyalty is the strongest purchase motivation, although penetration levels prove that this represents regular drinking rather than exclusive attachment to a single brand. Habitual purchase is noticeably more influential among Scottish and northern than southern drinkers.

Experimentation, the next strongest motivator, may well be linked to the high incidence of impulse purchase – a bottle “catching the buyers’ eye in the pub or bar”. Recommendation, which probably reflects and includes peer group pressure, is also a factor with a third of drinkers. These three reasons are all higher among the younger age group. Recommendation is also strongly slanted towards the ABC1s.

On-trade promotions, such as “happy hours” and promotional nights, seem to be working well in the market. They score significantly higher than ads. ABC1 drinkers are nearly twice as likely to have been influenced by one of these promotional events than C2DEs.

Given the high media spend and the number of brands noticed advertising, the claimed influence of ads is surprisingly low, especially compared to other markets BrandTrack has examined. Outdoor is acknowledged by slightly more buyers than TV ads, perhaps because of the mobility and out-of-home habits of the target audience.

Budweiser, Beck’s Bier and Foster’s buyers are more likely to give experimentation as a reason for purchase, although the two top brands also achieve higher “loyalty” levels than the other brands. Beck’s buyers have particularly high scores for on-trade promotions and recommendation.

Advertising recall

Four out of five buyers could name at least one brand ad during July. Forty-three brand ads were recalled, 12 by five per cent or more of respondents, although only Budweiser and Foster’s Ice were remembered by 25 per cent or more of drinkers.

Younger drinkers are more likely to remember lager ads and remembered more brands than older drinkers. Social class does not seem to influence ad recall levels. However, a complete lack of recall is more than twice as frequent among buyers in the southern half of the country.

The northern recall bias is particularly marked for Tennents and Labatt Ice. Only Foster’s takes more than half its recall from buyers in London and the South-east.

Media expenditure

Calculating exact spend in this market is difficult because several beers advertise canned and draught, as well as bottled versions of the same brand. This may also affect ad recall.

Of the 19 bottled lagers advertising in July, only four spent more than 100,000. This contrasts strongly with annual expenditure to date, with seven brands spending more than 2m and another six more than 1m.

Although TV takes more than two-thirds of the total spend, press, cinema and outdoor all account for at least seven per cent of market expenditure. Press tends to be used solus by the niche brands; cinema, radio and poster in conjunction with TV campaigns by major brands.

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