With the sunshine comes BBQ season and the perfect excuse for sloshing back gin and tonics, prosecco and cocktails, but for the majority of women in the UK, not beer. For decades brewers, men and society have convinced themselves that women are not interested in beer. This has translated into a media and marketing system that perpetuates the myth. But are women really that put off by the taste of amber nectar? Or in fact, are years of insidious gender stereotyping to blame for turning the beer industry into a boys’ club?
In countries like Spain and Canada, female beer drinkers are far more than just a niche category, with women making up over 40% of beer drinkers. Surely this is proof that beer isn’t kryptonite to the female palate after all. Yet the prevailing culture in Britain is that beer is just for men and hence consumption here lags behind the majority of western nations, with women in Britain making up just 16% of beer drinkers. There’s a massive opportunity to stimulate incremental beer sales if the cultural status quo around gender can be challenged. As attention is increasingly drawn to challenging out-dated gender roles in society, traditionally male brands in other sectors are starting to wake up to the power and influence of female audiences. Can the beer industry follow?
So far, attempts to attract women to beer have focused around creating bespoke products for women. Molson Coors were one of the first to come up with the idea, launching their Animée beer which came in three flavours – standard, rosé and citrus. Despite a £2m marketing campaign, it was pulled less than a year later. More recently, a Czech Republic-based brewery has launched Aurosa, a premium, lifestyle “beer for her”, which comes in a pink marble bottle. When it launched in London earlier this year there was a storm of social media backlash with some hilariously sarcastic comments such as “Finally a beer that my tiny delicate girlie hands can manage to hold".
First, the concept of a woman-only beer is nonsensical in a world where views on gender are moving at a pace. And second, the campaigns for both these brands were shocking and showed a complete lack of audience understanding. Animée’s advert featured facile, prancing, mini-skirted ladies in beer hats. Aurosa has opted for a more sophisticated approach. Their website claims: “Aurosa is not just some kind of beer, it’s also a detail enlivening your interior decor, a vase for fresh-cut flowers, a piece of art. Aurosa is a lifestyle only waiting to be discovered”. So instead of reducing their audience to sex-kitten, circus performers, Aurosa seems to believe their audience is so vacuous and image-obsessed they care more about how the bottle looks than what’s inside it.
It’s time we called time on the gender stereotypes, the established conventions, the tired and irrelevant clichés and look at the huge, untapped potential that female beer drinkers offer. Here are our top tips for broadening appeal to women:
1. Liberate real creativity
Women say the biggest thing that would change the way they perceive beer is the way its advertised. The use of alpha-male imagery to advertise beer alienates women, so the first step is to stop ignoring them and look to build emotional connections. There are over 100 years of male advertising to untangle but what a refreshing and liberating creative brief that would be to tackle.
2. Ditch the empowerment message
After years of the beer industry ignoring or objectifying women, the ‘you can do it too’ message that supposedly welcomes women in just looks disingenuous. To connect with women and build trust to trial we need to break down the barriers, understand their motivations, explore ways to build relationships with beer, explore what drinking beer unlocks. There’s a wealth of interesting insights and creative angles to explore here.
3. Invest in getting the brand right
The craft beer category tends to rely on heavily male posturing with product names ranging from ‘Howling Monkey’ and ‘Five O’ Clock Shadow’ to more extreme examples such as ‘Raging Bitch and ‘Leg Spreader’. Why maintain these silly category conventions when it actively rules out a big chunk of your potential audience? Brands can attract larger audiences by breaking fresh ground and understanding what female consumers think and feel about their products. Look for the shared ground and build on it. Perhaps branding and story could be less about the one-dimensional and well-trodden path of strength and aggression and introduce more substance. Exploring flavours, occasions and mood perhaps and the concept of food pairing.
4. Bring women and their stories to the fore
To attract women, prove that you value them. There are a host of enthusiastic, passionate beer-loving women already out there, brewing, tasting and driving beer culture. By harnessing positive stories like these, we can show newcomers that we share their appreciation and passion. Women are fascinated by other people’s experiences, so share them, help them educate a new generation of beer enthusiasts and help spread the word.
5. Elevate the category
The rise of craft beer has brought a level of detail and sophistication to the category that women too will appreciate. Small independent brewers are experimenting with interesting styles and flavours which focus much more on quality. There are many similarities with wine, already a firm choice for women and there are some good learnings to apply here in promoting an emotional journey of exploration and discoverability. Also think about ways to elevate experience details and stimulate desire – presentation and serving are vital here.
The beer category is facing what Mckinsey called ‘it’s greatest challenge in 50 years’ with a combination of falling demand, intense competition and tougher market regulation. Set against this backdrop, women offer a significant growth opportunity, but to succeed the industry needs to innovate its marketing with genuinely customer-focused brands. It’s time to transcend gender. We’ll raise a glass to that.