The 6th Chapter of the Book of Daniel tells the story of Daniel being cast into a den of lions to face certain death, only to be saved by an angel sent by God to close the jaws of the lion.
The words “thrown into the lions’ den” themselves mean “a demanding, intimidating, or unpleasant place or situation” and the term has been used in many contexts and been the subject of many a song. Not long ago Greg Butler, vice president of marketing for the Miller family of brands, and his team went straight into their own lions den, AKA Bud Light’s birthplace, St. Louis.
In case you didn’t know, Miller Lite and Bud Light are competitors, to say the least. So for Butler and his team to go right to the lions den, St. Louis, the home of Bud Light to see if Bud Light drinkers would actually prefer Miller Lite. Yeah, like that would ever happen in of all places, the birthplace of the beer itself!
Let’s Go To The Video
This past September, over the course of three days, over 350 St. Louisians were surveyed via a promotional blind taste test to see if in fact they prefer Miller Lite over Bud Light. The results? 76% chose Miller Lite instead of Bud Light.
See the video below for yourself followed by a QA I did with Butler on the campaign.
Steve Olenski: Was there any reluctance at all to go into the Lions’ Den, if you will, by your team and your boss(es)?
Greg Butler: Why St. Louis? Because we wanted to show that Miller Lite wins even with some of the staunchest Bud Light loyalists. Some of them have been drinking Bud Light for their entire adult lives, so we knew they would be shocked to find out that they would think Miller Lite has more taste while less calories and carbs than Bud Light. So the team was excited. All summer we’ve seen fantastic results from the Know Your Beer program, and we are always confident in our beer. The results clearly speak for themselves.
Olenski: What was the reaction to this idea among your bosses?
Butler: Everyone over here has a lot of love for this program. We have so much pride in our beer and love demonstrating it.
Olenski: What’s next? Any other cities/locations you want to try something similar or would the question be moot since once you conquer St. Louis there’s no need to go anyplace else?
Butler: We’ve already reached over 400,000 people with the Know Your Beer program and will continue to have people participate in our blind taste tests across the country through the end of November. Although St. Louis was an exciting place to challenge, due in part to the longstanding Bud Light loyalty, we’re focused on continuing to educate beer drinkers nationwide.
Olenski: Were you prepared to share the results if they were not as favorable?
Butler: Yes, but given our successes from the summer and the ongoing success of Know Your Beer nationwide, we were right to be confident that the results would point to Miller Lite. When you win by that big of a margin in each market we ran the program, it tells you that you have a real advantage.
Olenski: Is this kind of marketing approach something you want to do more of, not just go into select markets, but this kind of “take the competition head on?”
Butler: Why did we do this type of head-on approach? Three reasons: 1) Consumers care more about their beers than ever before. 2) We believe we have a better light beer. 3) It’s working. Compare Bud Light share performance to Miller Lite. The Know Your Beer program focuses on beer education and explaining about what goes into a beer and how you evaluate a beer. Our approach will never be about competition for the sake of competing, but rather arming consumers with all of the information they need to come to their own conclusions and make their own decision.
Olenski: What do you think brands in other industries can learn from this?
Butler: Increasingly, we’re seeing consumers want to understand more about the products they buy. In the case of the beer industry, that means a heightened focus on what goes into their beer, and a desire to know more about what defines taste and quality. This is something that Miller Lite has delivered on consistently for years. Because when you strip away all the marketing, sponsorships, and viral videos, you’ve got to be able to deliver a quality product that people enjoy, and that’s something that no marketing can buy.
There is another lesson here for brands and that is to not be afraid to take your competition head on. Put yourself out there for all the world to see. If you feel that strongly that you are superior to your competition, what do you have to lose? Stop talking about in conference rooms and boardrooms and do it.