Last year, we briefly touched on the massive hidden consumerism of St. Patrick’s Day, and in that piece we gave mention to the consumerization that happens around beer during that holiday. But beer consumerization isn’t simply limited to St. Patrick’s Day (or for that matter the Super Bowl). It’s all over. Are your beer purchasing decisions being made by your personal taste, or are they being made by a media machine? We think that it’s worth the time to slow down and consider the various options while taking a closer look at the integration between consumerism and the world’s most purchased alcoholic beverage.
The Commercials. Oh My Goodness the Commercials.
One of the safer things to assume is that the more you are seeing and hearing commercials for a product or type of product, the more the consumer media machine is influencing your purchasing decisions (even if it’s to reject the advertisers). In just 2013, beer and spirit manufacturers spent more than a billion dollars on television advertising alone. In 2015, Anheuser Busch by itself spent over $500 million on television alone. In fact, over the last forty years, beer and alcohol advertisements have increased by 400%. Yet Americans aren’t actually consuming more alcohol per person than they did forty years ago. Why has the use of ads gone up so much? Because advertising drives the choice of what you’re purchasing more so than the amount that you purchase. In a consumer nation, the choice of what you buy is, sadly, often linked to how you create your identity. Therefore the ad budget goes up so that brands can grab a bigger section of a limited pool. Does that sound crazy to you? Yes. But it’s how the consumer machine works, and it works very well with alcohol.
So How Do You Define Yourself? Micro Brew or Bud?
We’ve talked before about how people use consumer goods to determine their identity, and beer is actually a great example of this. If you are drinking a microbrew, there’s a pretty good chance that you’ll use one of the following words to describe yourself: hipster, urban, affluent, educated. If you’re drinking canned Budweiser, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll use one of these words to describe yourself: working class, down to earth, bro, sport fan. But it’s not really the beer that defines you, and it’s not really your personality or tastes that define what beer you enjoy. However, years of banging on your brain by the media machine may have you thinking something different. It’s okay to go to the sport bar and order the micro brew. It’s okay to go to the craft cocktail bar and ask for a Bud (though they likely won’t have it!). Your beer, much like your clothing, does not define you. YOU define you, and you’re welcome to enjoy any beer that you want any time that you want.
A Revisit to Luxury Marketing vs. “Down to Earth” Marketing
We touched on this concept briefly when we discussed the consumerization of whiskey, but it’s no less true when it comes to beer and it is slightly different than defining yourself as a brand. Luxury marketing is designed to appeal to an “aspirational buyer” who will purchase something with a higher price point or a luxury association in order to try to attain or reflect a lifestyle. “Down to earth” marketing is meant to appeal to people who specifically reject that type of attitude. We think you already know which beers fall into which categories, but we also promise you that if you explore a beer from another of the two categories we’re sure that you’ll find something that you like.
Event Drinking Applies to Beer As Well
We also touched in our article on whiskey about how the consumer media machine has made you think that you should drink certain things at certain times. For example, whiskey is promoted for St. Patrick’s Day, obviously, but also for post-work stress drinks and bachelor parties. Beer is for sporting events, bar meet-ups and outdoor events … or at least that’s what you’ve been told! But is it? Would you rather have a gin and tonic at your next sports outing? Nobody is stopping you.
The Long and Short of It Is This: Be Mindful
We’re taking the same stance here that we took when we discussed whiskey consumerization. Just be mindful. Not just about beer and whiskey but about everything. Are you buying the things that you’re buying because you enjoy them and truly like them, or because you’ve been programmed? And there’s no shame in having been programmed. We’ve all been programmed by the consumer media machine to a certain degree and unwinding that is a long process. What can you do? Explore new things. New brands, new drinks, new times and places to drink. Find out what works for YOU instead of what you’ve been told works. And, most importantly, keep in mind exactly how much advertising money is being spent on beer and that almost all of that money is simply to get you to purchase a specific brand rather than to drink more. In some ways, that piece of information should tell you all that you need to know.
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