How To Solve The Innovation Challenge Of A Lager For Women

An ongoing innovation challenge for breweries is how do you get more women to drink more lager. A refreshing fizzy drink – it should be easy shouldn’t it? It certainly doesn’t appear to be. Many brands have tried and failed to crack it. But why? Where are they going wrong, and what other approaches could be looked at?

The lager for women ‘tried and failed’ model:

  • Taking a girly positioning, such as that used by US brand Chick, may seem to be the most straight forward way to appeal to women but it runs a high risk of being seen as extremely patronising and condescending. Rather than encouraging women to drink beer, it is more likely to turn them away.
Beers aimed at the female market

Contemporary packaging design has been used in women’s lager but this leads to a move away from its brewery heritage at a time when authenticity is something consumers increasingly desire. Is the contemporary look a step too far from lager’s origins to be credible?

  • There also seems to be an underlying belief that women want a completely different taste profile to that of a traditional lager. This has led to very different taste cues being used on pack which can be an issue for women’s lager brands. For example, Animee’s packaging cued a herbal taste and it was finally pulled from the UK market. This shows that changing taste cues to something outside of traditional lager is not necessarily the way to engage women.
animee beer bottles
  • Something strange also happens to the liquid colour in women’s lager – it can turn yellow, red or even pink! This removes all lager cues and looks more like an alcopop. In addition, it raises a lot of questions around taste, artificial colours etc. This type of product is unlikely to appeal broadly to women far past their teenage years.

The above attempts at a female lager are either obvious and clichéd ways to ‘feminise’ a product or move lager too far away from its fundamentals to be credible.

So, what might women like from a lager?

  • Bloating is often cited as an issue for women with lager, so could a lightly sparkling, as opposed to very fizzy liquid be developed? Or could a smaller serving be introduced to address this?
  • Can lager broaden its range of occasions? Raising awareness of which lager compliments food or introducing a higher alcohol lager shot for when women are getting ready to go out may be options worth considering.
Simon Rimmer Lager that matched your food - steak, curry etc

Is a trick being missed with the pack structures? Lagers tend to come in a standard format – a can or a slim, long necked bottle. But what are the other options available? Bruichladdich is a whisky that has broken out of the classic whiskey bottle style in a dramatic way. Could a lager brand achieve a similar format breakthrough?

the glenlivet whiskey versus the more modern designed bottle
  • How about changing the language around lager to be more female friendly? For example, referring to lager as sch’lager or changing the language around a pint in the trade to something like a tumbler.

Whilst there is clearly an innovation challenge with drawing women into the lager category, it doesn’t have to be an insurmountable one. Whichever category you are working in, attracting new customers and broadening your target is never a quick, straightforward job. Whilst it is tempting to go for the obvious big changes, we have found that it is often the subtleties that make the biggest difference, unfortunately these tend to be the changes which are most often overlooked. Maybe this is the case here?

Published 13th February 2015 by Shelly Greenway @ the Strategy Distillery