Coke and Pepsi have been at war for years for share of the soft drinks market. Both drinks have their staunch defenders but Coke has the majority share of the market. However, repeatedly in blind taste tests have shown people prefer the taste of Pepsi. How is it then that Coke still hold the larger share of the market? Truth is, it has nothing to do with what is in the bottle or, how it tastes. It is everything to do with the brand, the marketing and the cultural significance Coke has.
In my last blog I tried to tackle what ‘quality’ actually means when talking about beers. Essentially,all ‘quality’ means is how the product satisfies the consumer’s needs.This is partly, at least to do with the intrinsic and extrinsic properties of the product, they can sway someone’s opinion as to whether something is high quality or not.
Intrinsic things are the physical properties of the beer such as alcoholic content, ingredients, carbonation level, whether the beer is draught or bottled and maturation time. Extrinsic things are everything else associated with the beer, such as branding, cultural image, how the beer makes you feel.
Traditionally mass produced beers have focussed their advertising on extrinsic things. Fosters is known for lighthearted comedy sketches, association with sports sponsorship and pastiched more Aussie than Australian drinkers. Stella Artois likes to make you think you are about to purchase and imbibe some chic, cool, product only enjoyed by beautiful people in the South of France. Obviously this is just to distract from the fact that these beers are not very well made and, that Fosters holds almost no market share in Australia. Similarly Stella Artois is not the drink of choice for the ‘it’ crowd in Fréjus Saint-Raphaël or the on the Cap d’Antibes. You are more likely to find it being drunk by a scruffy farmer with broken veins in his nose who smells of pigs and cabbages in a shabby café in rural Flemish speaking Belgium, where it is actually made. In fact, he is more likely to be drinking Jupiler. But anyhow, I digress. What I’m trying to say is that the extrinsics are the smoke and mirrors. They are the things the advertisers use to pull your strings to make you want to buy the beer. They promise to make you seem cooler, funnier or associated with a certain group of people.
Of course, some beers are marketed using their intrinsic values. Grosch for one, used the ‘We Only Let You Drink It When It Is Ready’ campaign, hinting that Grolsch was lagered for longer than other beers, resulting in a better flavour. Stella have tried this too, when they realised their credibility as a brand was shot. They proudly announced that their beer was ‘triple filtered’ which means pretty much nothing, other than they have filtered it so much that it won’t taste of anything. They also used the slogan ‘Hops, Malted Barley, Maize and Water’. Proudly advertising they were using maize was a bit daft, as maize is a cheap adjunct used instead of barley to cut cost. Also, unless Stella have the Second Coming sat in their brewery turning raw ingredients into alcohol, I don’t see how they have managed to make beer without any yeast either.
Both intrinsics and extrinsics don’t have to be explicitly advertised either. Sometimes they are implied by the nature of the niche that the beer sits in. I’m specifically referring here to the craft beer sector of the market. By the fact that they are a craft beer, it infers that the intrinsics of the beer are the best they can possibly be with regard to ingredients, brewing practice and process. If I’m to slightly over analyse, the extrinsics are implied too. Choosing to drink a craft beer shows individuality, taste and style. You identify with a certain group of fashionable drinkers, probably between the ages of 20-45 who value taste over value. Bigger breweries jumping on the craft bandwagon muddy this water a little in my opinion but I think that this stays largely true.
From all this, you can see how both the intrinsic and extrinsic properties of a beer endorse or undermine people’s opinion of what a high quality beer is. If someone’s primary concerns are great ingredients and looking cool in an East London bar, they will consider a can of Beavertown the high quality option. If they are a bloke out with their mates and want a tasteless, low gravity beer they can drink lots of on a limited budget that they can make a joke about the advert in the pub, Fosters is the high quality option.
If you want a longer read on how branding sways people’s opinions of both what the intrinsic and extrinsic characteristics of a beer are, I can recommend this: