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In search of mass appeal, Shiner Light Blonde ads have more fun

Shiner Beers is saying cheers to the craft beer segment rebound by focusing on its 99-calorie Light Blonde lager, as well as a flurry of new innovations. Chief marketer Matthew Pechman shares his plans for the big Texan brand with big growth aspirations.

With the craft beer segment finding its footing again, now that people are hitting more bars and restaurants, Shiner Beers is looking to make its move. The sixth largest brand family in the craft beer category is betting its Light Blonde ale will deliver big results as consumers look for more flavor with fewer calories. That’s why it is debuting its new first new ad campaign since 2017 titled ‘Seriously, it’s light.’

Shiner Light Blonde is currently the No. 1 national light craft beer. The Gambrinus Company is banking on the brand gaining broader appeal outside of its Texas stronghold in the hopes of creating a one-two punch alongside Shiner Bock.

The Shiner portfolio, as a whole, is expected to recoup sales lost during Covid as it grows low-to-mid double digits, per Beer Marketer’s Insights. “You’re seeing them innovate and invest in brands outside of Shiner Bock because that’s where the market has gone,” says David Steinman, senior editor, Beer Marketer’s Insights. “They’re trying to ride some growth from the next generation of drinkers looking for more flavorful beer than the traditional light lagers. Light Blonde fits all those specs.”

The new campaign pivots away from the brand’s previous laid-back lifestyle ads. This time around it is embracing the tried-and-true ‘make them laugh’ beer marketing approach. In one of the debut spots, upon taking his first sip at an opera a beer drinker bursts into song, upstaging the actual performers. In another, an art goer proclaims “that’s ridiculous” after tasting the 99-calorie adult beverage. Other art patrons think he’s judging the art piece at hand and loudly agree.

“There are so many light beers, seltzers and other things competing with one another, it’s a race to the bottom for lower calories. Flavor has gone out the window,” says Micky Ogando, chief creative at Bakery, the agency responsible for the new campaign. “Our insight was that in social situations a lot of people get handed a beer. We made comedy out of the fact that a lot of people didn’t think Light Blonde could be a light beer. It was a narrative that existed with our customers and we brought it to life.”

Shiner chief marketer Matthew Pechman is counting on double-digit growth from Light Blonde, as well as a flurry of new offerings in 2022. Shiner will introduce five new beers, one new hard seltzer package and a one-off surprise, as well as seasonal offerings. “It’s about recruiting new consumers into the brand,” says Pechman, a Diageo veteran who joined Shiner Beers last August after having served as chief marketer at Champagne Armand de Brignac. “Shiner is a big tent and an inclusive brand. We want to offer a beer, seltzer or beverage that appeals to every possible consumer.”

But first Shiner’s initial energy will be focused on Light Blonde, which will seed its new ads on social, connected TV and other channels.

Focusing on the light segment is on-trend, says Steinman, who notes that Firestone Walker’s 805 brand is living up to the fire part of its name in California. In fact, the light lager may push the brand past Shiner this year. “Craft brewers all over are viewing blonde ale as a good gateway for drinkers looking for more flavorful beer. Every brewer is looking for more routes to its flagship brand.”

One of the key differentiators for Shiner? “They have been marketing more than the average craft brewer. They spend above their weight,” says Steinman.

This is the moment to spend on Light Blonde, says Pechman. “The last few years we focused on other priorities so the brand hasn’t reached its potential. Light Blonde is going to be a big brand for us.”

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