The Stella Artois story is testament to the power of branding (“Stella won’t be shaken”, MW May 26). Take an relatively “un-special” Belgian lager, unrecognised in its home country as exceptional. Introduce it to the UK and consistently position and communicate it as an exclusive, and conspicuously expensive, premium brand and it becomes the UK’s top-selling “premium” lager – unquestionably a brilliant bit of marketing.
Stella Artois is wise to stick to its guns and not engage in discounting. It should continue to raise its price in the face of heavily promoted competition.
The real question is where does Stella go from here? Once its carefully fostered “reassuringly expensive” positioning is blown (as it surely will be – does the product really live up to the promise?) then it will not have a leg to stand on. The re-introduction of Artois Bock (which will presumably be “reassuringly, ridiculously expensive”) won’t necessarily help Stella retain its stranglehold on the UK.
Can it stay the course as “the” premium lager with annual sales of &£1.6bn and a more than 40 per cent share in the UK premium lager market? The celebrated Stella Artois ads are beginning to feel a little faded and probably need rethinking. As a brand it is noticeably lacking any extensions; could now be the time to innovate at a brand portfolio level?
Whatever InBev decides to do with Stella, reducing its price would surely put it on a road it can’t afford to go down. Without its price tag (and associated trappings), what else has it got?