The era of blokey ads is over but replacing them will not be easy

Is the age of laddish ads over? Last week, Foster’s and Lynx announced they were retiring their blokeish positioning – a hangover from the 1990s when Britpop and Loaded magazine made it acceptable for men to be unabashed in their love of football, women and alcohol-fuelled high jinks.

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Foster’s relationship counsellors and life coaches Brad and Dan have offered their last piece of advice. It is a move in line with global parent company SABMiller’s desire to extend the appeal of its brands beyond beer guzzling blokes through softer positioning to provide them with a chance of being bought by women or being used as a platform for brand extensions.

In a separate move last week that underlines its thinking, SABMiller bought London-based craft brewer Meantime. One reason offered for the acquisition was that Meantime, which has chocolate porters and stouts, is more attractive to women than others in SABMiller’s, and rivals’, portfolios. European managing director Sue Clark told Marketing Week: “In the past, we have tended to target only young male consumers. At best, we haven’t appealed to women, and at worst, we have put them off.”

Meanwhile, Lynx, which built its entire brand around the male fantasy of women, has decided such an approach is “not relevant anymore”, according to brand manager David Titman. “There is a growing consumer demand for things that are sophisticated, premium, and Lynx needs to fit into that trend.”

It is clear that exaggerated gender stereotypes are becoming a thing of the past. Brands keen on exploiting the equity in a brand through product extensions are mindful of being defined as being a brand for the boys. More importantly, they are also very aware of the demand for brands to offer more than function, they need to have a purpose.

But if not blokey appeal, what else? Foster’s is an everyday larger in a commoditised market. It is not sister brand Peroni, with its Italian provenance and artistic pretensions. It is competing for attention with the other metre-high stacks in supermarkets all over the country. Carling moved away from its lad positioning in 2011 only to return again last year when sales dipped. The era of laddish ads might be coming to an end but that’s the easy decision, what’s next is an even bigger challenge.

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