Large beer companies have always been competitive, but that competition spilled over into the national consciousness last month when Bud Light’s Super Bowl ads took a direct swipe at Miller Lite and Coors Light for containing “corn syrup.” As I noted, that attack is misdirected and confusing to consumers, but that hasn’t stopped both Anheuser-Busch InBev and MillerCoors from trading barbs back and forth for weeks. The rift became serious enough to derail a tentative pro-beer marketing partnership between America’s largest breweries, and it’s still not over. Today, Coors Light announces a new promotion to “turn the conversation back to what people really want” by “turning negativity into free Coors Light.”
The press release notes consumers are tired of hearing about the corn syrup controversy and would rather focus on the beer. Amen! Except this campaign to “refresh the beer wars conversation” just furthers the spat. Here’s how it works: Bars in select cities—New York, Philadelphia, Dallas, Omaha and Las Vegas—around the country can install specially designed Coors Light tap handles that light up whenever Bud Light attacks Coors on social media or broadcast media. When the tap handle lights up, the whole bar receives a round of free Coors Light. So, in effect, it continues to keep consumers’ focus on which-brewery-said-what on social media.
“Bud Light has been attacking us out of frustration for weeks now,” Ryan Reis, vice president of brand marketing for Coors brands said in a statement. “We believe people just want to move on. So we invented this smart beer tap that does the listening for them—and even better, turns Bud Light’s negativity into rounds of Coors Light on us.”
Though it claims the high road, Coors is just furthering the tit-for-tat. This isn’t even about the beer anymore; it’s just a distracting squabble between two big beer companies. Are we still arguing over corn syrup, or is this just a corporate vendetta now? Reis is correct in assuming people just want to move on, but to this reporter, Coors Light’s new campaign does little to further that. I still hold out a bit of hope for the day, years from now, when we can look back and ask, “What corn syrup thing?”