FORTUNE, they say, favors the bold. Will Fortune also favor a brewer?
That question may be asked as MillerCoors brings out a product in a growing category of the estimated $30 billion American beer market: brews with higher alcohol by volume, meant to compete against liquor for the favor of consumers ages 21 to 27. The new product, called Miller Fortune, has recently been arriving in stores; the introductory advertising is on the way.
(For those wondering how Fortune could be a beer when it is already a magazine, it is not unusual for marketers to use a name already selling one type of product to sell another. Examples include Dove, for soap and chocolate, or Delta, for airplanes and faucets.)
To underline how significant MillerCoors believes Miller Fortune could be, Andy England, chief marketing officer at MillerCoors in Chicago, termed it “the largest launch of a new product” since MillerCoors was formed in 2008 by SABMiller and Molson Coors Brewing.
“It is very big from a media point of view, driving awareness and trial with spending that is significant,” he said, and more than MillerCoors spent last year to introduce a flavored malt beverage, Redd’s Apple Ale, that he described as “the most successful new product since the joint venture” began.
According to Kantar Media, a division of WPP, MillerCoors spent $23.1 million to advertise Redd’s in the first nine months of 2013. (Data for the fourth quarter is pending.) That total exceeded the ad spending during the same period for venerable MillerCoors brands like Coors, Leinenkugel’s and Miller 64, Kantar Media reported.
The arrival of Miller Fortune, 6.9 percent alcohol by volume, comes two years after the principal rival of MillerCoors, Anheuser-Busch InBev, introduced Bud Light Platinum beer, 6 percent alcohol by volume. Regular beers are around 5 percent, while light beers are about 4.2 percent. The new brews are meant to respond to the drinking patterns of so-called millennials, who have upended the beer industry by liking and buying distilled spirits more than their older siblings.
“It has become increasingly obvious to beer marketers that we are in competition in a broader space than beer, in the total beverage alcohol market,” Mr. England said, and “it’s somewhat generational,” likening the millennials to the drinkers of the “Mad Men” era when “cocktails were where it was at.”
“Spirits has done a good job of getting the hearts and minds of legal-drinking-age millennials, portraying offerings as more sophisticated,” he added. “Enter Miller Fortune.”
To offer cues associated more with liquor than beer, Miller Fortune comes in a black bottle; the first commercials are set at night, in gritty, urban landscapes; and ads will suggest pouring it into rocks glasses rather than beer glasses. The campaign will take a more worldly tack than do many beer ads; one poster, for instance, declares, “Open Pandora’s bottle.”
In that vein, the debut commercials feature Mark Strong, a steely British actor, as “a mysterious character,” Mr. England said, who encourages men of the target audience to try ending their evenings differently.
In one commercial, Mr. Strong says, “You never know where Fortune leads.” In another, he urges a millennial to go back into a bar he just left, “fight the coming of tomorrow and make it the kind of night most men can only dream of.” The spots end with the declaration, “Your Fortune awaits.”
MillerCoors worked with Redscout in New York, part of MDC Partners, in developing the Miller Fortune brand and positioning it in the alcoholic beverage market. The creative duties for the campaign are handled by Saatchi & Saatchi New York.
“Where are the opportunities for beer?” asked Claudine Cheever, chief strategic officer at Saatchi & Saatchi New York, part of the Saatchi & Saatchi division of the Publicis Groupe.
“Instead of beer being relegated to tailgates” as part of stereotypical “beervertising,” she said, “where you have to have a party, you have to have sophomoric humor, it could be a mood shifter, a trigger for a change in your night versus ‘you know where it’s going.’ ”
Mr. Strong “personifies the moment you decide to change the night’s direction,” she added, “when you make it a little more interesting, more exciting.”
It is no accident that only Mr. Strong speaks in the initial commercials, Ms. Cheever said: “Sometimes we talk too much in ads. Maybe we should shut up a little bit.”
Ms. Cheever and Mr. England said it was coincidental that Mr. Strong’s star turn for Miller Fortune would come soon after his work in a campaign for the new Jaguar F-Type coupe, which included a popular commercial during Super Bowl XLVIII on Feb. 2 that last week inspired a longer version.
At first, “we were torn as to whether that was a good thing or a bad thing,” Mr. England acknowledged, but the eventual decision was that “ultimately, it’s helpful” because “the way we are using him is very much in line with the way Jaguar is using him.”
There has been a minor hitch in the introduction: After an article in Bloomberg Businessweek described Miller Fortune as having “a malty, complex flavor hinting at bourbon,” some follow-up articles portrayed it as bourbon-flavored. In an email to reporters, MillerCoors public relations executives wrote, “Miller Fortune is not bourbon-like or a bourbon-flavored beer.”
Mr. England joked: “If you’re going to plagiarize, do so accurately. Copy, paste.”