Is it really 'Miller Time'?

Lackluster beer sales give investors a hangover.

By Jonathan Berr Mar 27, 2012 1:08PM
Image: Beer (© Corbis)In a speech at a brewers convention last year, MillerCoors Chief Marketing Officer Andy England  bragged that "Budweiser is going down baby." He promised, according to Advertising Age, that Miller Lite would "leave Bud in the dust in 2012." 

Now, the brewer wants to back up its words with more words, specifically its iconic slogan from the 1970s: "It's Miller Time."

MillerCoors, a joint venture between Molson Coors Brewing Co. (TAP) and SABMiller PLC, has decided to revive the slogan, which had been retired in 2002, in an effort to revive Miller Lite's lackluster sales. That won't be cheap. As Dow Jones Newswires noted, Andy England is raising Miller Lite's media budget by 50% for TV, print and online sites such as Facebook, Pandora (P) and Yahoo's (YHOO) fantasy sports service.

According to Beer Marketer's Insights, Miller Lite's market share slumped from 8.1% in 2008 to 7.5% in 2010. Beer Business Daily ranks the Miller Lite brand fourth, behind Bud Light, Coors Light, and Budweiser -- with about a 7% market share. This is bad, especially since about 25% of MillerCoors' total volume comes from Miller Lite.

"Miller Lite is a little bit victimized by our significant success in Coors Light, but that's no excuse," MillerCoors CEO Tim Long told The Wall Street Journal. "We've got a job to do on Miller Lite."

Yeah, but is nostalgia really the answer?  

People who remember the classic Miller Lite commercials don't drink beer as much as they used to. Seeing the old "It's Miller Time" slogan may unleash the floodgates of their memories, but not necessarily lead them to pry open their wallets. Younger drinkers who avoid Miller Lite now have little incentive to drink the brew that their dads and granddads enjoyed. 

However, Harry Schumaker, editor and publisher of Beer Business Daily, is optimistic about the new campaign. "Yes, I believe the new campaign will help sales of Miller Lite, if only because the past ad campaigns have been so bad in comparison," he wrote in an email.  

MilllerCoors has a tough road ahead. Beer sales have been flat for years. The reasons are many, ranging from a crackdown on drunk driving to the growth in popularity of distilled spirits. Beer drinkers these days are increasingly willing to shell out big bucks for premium craft beers.  During the first half of 2011, dollar sales at small and independent craft brewers were up 15%.

Miller Lite is a brand that's past its prime. Bringing back a slogan from its glory days makes that fact plain.

Jonathan Berr enjoys a beer about once a quarter.  He owns no shares of the companies listed here.
Mar 27, 2012 10:26PM
Here's a thought - instead of a stupid ad campaign, why not invest in the beer? As in, make it taste not like crap. The increase in craft beer sales is evidence that in spite of the stereotype, Americans actually do care about taste and quality. Fight it all you want, we are returning to a time of regional breweries and distilleries. Prohibition is finally over for real.
Mar 28, 2012 9:14AM
all my "beer" is  going in my gas tank.  
Mar 28, 2012 7:11AM

Is it a surprise beer sales are down..?

Look at all the prices going up in the grocery store...

Fuel cost drives up ALL cost of living expenses...

Millions of American families are hurting...

Buy only what we need, cut travel, eating out, movies, you name it...

All while oil companies report RECORD profits..?

Mar 28, 2012 10:06AM
There is a place for Miller and bud, it's at the beach, tailgating or cutting the grass.

In the hot sun, I don't want a heavy full body beer with a high ABV.

Just something to cool me off.

don't get me wrong, I love to drink Spaten optimator double bock or a Warsteiner dunkel.

Some beers are just meant for certain events

Mar 28, 2012 12:51AM

Smaller Gap At The Tap,


I primarliy enjoy wine these days, but when having an occassional beer I have noticed that the price gap between the formerly 'cheap' American standards like Bud, Miller, Coors etc and the trendy craft beers and micro brews has closed somewhat. There used to be nearly a four dollar difference between the top and bottom prices for a six-pack, but the cost differential seems to be closing ranks. It seems the big commercial brewers have gotten too greedy with their price-point for the mundane products they are offering.



Mar 28, 2012 8:30AM
I think if you're a true beer lover you would NOT really classify Miller Lite as a beer but a weak flavored water.  Bud and Bud Light are pretty much the same with more sugar added than Miller.  Amazing how crappy beers lead in sales..............all price related, not taste.
Mar 27, 2012 10:10PM
I spent 6 years in Germany...Miller Lite and Coors light is all carbonated crap.  Spend your hard earned dollars on real German beer.  It is worth it.
Mar 27, 2012 3:20PM
Miller High Life's slogan was "It's Miller Time". Lite's slogan was "Great Taste, Less Filling".
Mar 28, 2012 10:43AM
More people are splurging on good beer and drinking one or two of them instead of picking up the nightly six pax of rice lager and guzzling that down.
Mar 27, 2012 9:11PM
The major "American" brewers have been selling tasteless slop for years and calling it beer.  Now, it's the same tasteless slop, only the price now rivals really good-tasting craft beers.  If you are a working stiff without a lot of money and don't want to pay the price for Bud or Coors products, try Pabst Blue Ribbon.  Actually tastes better and costs significantly less.  Whether they admit it or not, most people really don't drink beer for the taste anyway.
Mar 28, 2012 10:09AM
The new ad campaign will probably sell more Miller-lite. Until folks taste it... It is an awful brew, but I am sure their commercials will be great.
Mar 28, 2012 11:35AM

He still wears an 80s mullet, he once broke a man's hand with his face, then broke a man's foot with his crotch.  He is, the least interesting man in the world.


"I can't always afford beer, but when I can, I prefer miller swill".

Mar 28, 2012 11:30AM
Gave up drinking completely! Too expensive. Gave up meat too! Gave up soda as well. Lost 40 pounds in a year with out trying! Wish there was a way to give up paying for Gas!
Mar 28, 2012 11:10AM

People can't afford to enjoy a barley pop when gas is approaching 5$ a gallon.  Great leaders we have in this country, way to go - prohibition through attrition.  Before you know it people will be home brewing just to watch a baseball game in their own living room because they can't afford to leave the house!  Socialism at it's finest people!

Mar 28, 2012 11:42AM
It doesn't take a genius to figure this one out! Coors, bud, miller etc are flat, tastily watered down seltzer water with not body or flavor. If those folks would only try Sam Adams they would realize what exceptional beer really is.  A few dollars more, but well worth it!
Mar 28, 2012 8:50AM

Beer is good, Miller is bad.  End of story. 

Mar 28, 2012 11:11AM
The "Miller Lite" brand is not as crisp  when compared to "Coors Light" but both are much better than Budweisers' Light beer. Beer sales are flat because the prices keep going up so much......
Mar 28, 2012 8:56AM
Did anyone mention the fact more people are drinking wine instead.
Mar 28, 2012 12:26PM

Lower the price and give it some taste.

Mar 28, 2012 8:04AM
My buddies and I drank Miller Lite for years we all agree, somethings different it does not taste as good as it use to we switched to Mexican beers
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