This week sees Marston's embark on a three-stage advertising

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Cask ale, Beer

The theme of the campaign is "No compromise" and relates to the Wolverhampton & Dudley-owned brewer's pledge that Pedigree will continue to be...

The theme of the campaign is "No compromise" and relates to the Wolverhampton & Dudley-owned brewer's pledge that Pedigree will continue to be brewed without compromise to cost or quality. The campaign comes at a time when real ale is under the cosh, with many observers seeing the only way is down. W&D's managing director of brands, Alistair Darby, is obviously not one of them. He observes: "There is an enormous amount of doom and gloom said about cask ale. What is often forgotten is the good news coming from regional brewers who are growing their brands with effective advertising. "I think a lot of people are searching out products with a great heritage. They don't want blandness, something with no heritage or something that is ersatz." Darby's vision of the beer market is that 85% to 90% of the total volume will be commanded by 10 brands, most of them lagers, in the near future. Alongside these will be "the speciality beers, not small beer brands but those that are absolutely different and a cut above the normal brands." He continues: "Within that group, there will be a collection of great real ales. We don't need one beer to champion that group ­ we've got great brands around the country that, because of good stewardship, are all doing great work." He says the marketing men in the big brewers have created the imagery whereby people are prepared to pay more money for lagers. "Inherently, real ale brewers have been a pretty conservative lot with the result that ale hasn't moved on. We have to take more risks by appealing to a much wider audience. This may mean losing some ale drinkers but I think we spend too much time trying to please the existing drinkers rather than breaking out and appealing to a new set of consumers." The shifting pattern of pub ownership and therefore the route to market is acknowledged by Darby as a challenge to real-ale brewers. "Undoubtedly, distribution within pub companies is a challenge, especially where there are historic links with brewers. But where there is a free choice, we don't find getting distribution difficult. Most landlords want to sell well-known and loved beer brands." Research undertaken by W&D reveals that during the earlier parts of the week, the lower energy occasions, people don't want to drink premium-packaged spirits ­ "they want an easy-going drink." Yet, he feels many licensees are taken in by the marketing spin that urges them to stock up on PPSs. "If the whole of the back bar is given over to the likes of Bacardi Breezer, where does the real ale drinker go? He goes home." He says that it would be the easiest thing in the world to make Pedigree cheaper to brew by not using Maris Otter barley, stop floor malting in Litchfield, stop using the Burton Union brewing system, and stop buying Fuggles and Goldings hops five years in advance. "But we won't compromise. The key thing is that nobody mucks around and nobody compromises so that the landlord can command a good premium price for a quality brand." Darby adds: "When Wolver-hampton & Dudley bought Mar-ston's, the automatic assumption was that we would change something, but we didn't, even though Pedigree is the most expen-sive beer to brew in England." It is this fact that underlies the "No compromise" campaign. He is reticent about releasing the cost of the ad campaign or what Marston's hopes will be a good result. "I don't want to get into the numbers game. Some people are quoting nonsense numbers [for the cost of their promotions]. Our people analysed the figure one company was quoting and found that the true cost of the campaign was only 10% ­ so where was the other 90%?" Pedigree is targeting a broad range of potential new customers, which Darby likens to a set of three concentric rings. "The inner concentric circle is made up of cask-ale afiçionados, predominantly male, and upwards of 25 years old. These are people who are searching out and drinking a cask ale with real heritage, but it is not that enormous a group of people. "The second group is aged between 25 and 50, drinking a range of premium products whether it is Guinness, Stella, red wine etc, and the drink they choose is appropriate to the occasion. There is a higher female bias in this group than the inner circle group. They understand cask ale and are committed to it, but we have got to get them to drink it more often. "The really big opportunity lies in people in the outer group. These are consumers, male and female, who are drinking premium products but not cask ale. "The challenge is to get these people back on the list." And that is how the success of the "No compromise" campaign will be judged.

Related topics: Marston's

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