Lion looks to reinvent its beer advertising

Lion’s new Consumer & Brand Director, Anubha Sahasrabuddhe, has revealed to Mi3 that she wants to bring the heart back to the company’s beer advertising campaigns.

She said the beer category has been “tone deaf” and failed to keep pace with the “cultural shift that has occurred in Australia”, particularly among younger Australians. She aims to move forward with a more diversity-focused strategy.

“We’re in deep, deep planning around exactly what our point of view is going to be around our brands and portfolio,” she said. “We want consumers to sit up take notice and get out of the inertia that we put them in.

“From an innovation and new product development perspective, we’ve done some hard work around understanding where needs are shifting. So watch this space. I think you’ll see in 2022, we hope to get people talking about us again.”

Mi3 describes itself as a “contemporary take on an industry journal – part journalism, part equities-style analysis”. It’s designed to be different in its conversations across the nexus of marketing, agencies, media and tech.

Sahasrabuddhe (above) joined Lion in November 2020.

Lion Australia Managing Director James Brindley said: “I can’t wait to see the energy and passion that Anubha will undoubtedly bring to Lion in ensuring we can connect with consumers in the most meaningful way possible.

“Born and raised just outside of Sydney, Sahasrabuddhe will return to Australia after a truly global career that saw her live in eight cities over the past 17 years. This worldwide perspective will be invaluable to Lion as the company focuses on the rebound of the adult beverages sector in 2021 following the heavy impact of COVID-19 restrictions during 2020.”

Sahasrabuddhe noted at the time of her appointment: “I feel privileged to have been chosen to lead the consumer thinking for Lion and oversee its portfolio of household name brands. When you think of brands like XXXX, Tooheys, Furphy and James Squire, you are transported immediately to life’s sociable moments. I look forward to taking these brands into the future, whilst also bringing Lion’s innovation and NPD strategy to life to meet consumer demand for new adult beverages in new growth markets.”

She told Mi3 that advertising is “at its best when it is reflecting deep human truths or values” with a lens on diversity.

Currently, beer advertising is reflecting the cultural norms that make up Anglo Saxon Australia: “it’s summer and it’s Easter and it’s Christmas”.

She confessed to admiring rival CUB’s Great Northern strategy, which took advantage of XXXX “looking tired, dusty and old”.

“If I’m CUB, I’m absolutely on a winning formula [with Great Northern]. It is a magnificent tourism ad – and it doesn’t feel like it needs to have a point of view beyond that.

“Suddenly you put blokes and girls in an ad – chicks in a beer ad! That have clothes! And, God forbid, you are suddenly modern and contemporary.”

Sahasrabuddhe is also looking to New Zealand beer advertising for inspiration. She thinks Speight’s is one of the best examples.

“Think about what Speight’s used to look like – the dude in the hat on the horse in the ‘deep south’ with the mountains around him and all of that. Look at their latest communication – it is completely different and it is so reflective and in step with ‘What is modern masculinity, what does that look like for Kiwis?’”

Speights decided to break with traditional beer advertising in 2018 and challenge what it means to be a Kiwi who enjoys a brew. The result was a two-minute film called The Dance’, which followed two workmates as one taught the other to dance.

Michael Lee, Senior Lecturer in Marketing at Auckland University, told Voxy: “I think it’s great that Speight’s has moved on from the grumpy ‘man of few words’ stereotype. The ad showcases men and how they can overcome their vulnerabilities and insecurities by sharing problems with good mates. Overall, I think it’s telling a story of men who are strong enough to be soft.”

“I think that’s a great example of a one hundred years-plus brand that’s gone on an arc and has evolved and shifted to reflect culture and society of New Zealand,” Sahasrabuddhe concluded. “And I think that’s brilliant.”

Click here to read Sahasrabuddhe’s full, fascinating interview with Mi3.

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Categories: Business