What Samuel Adams and releasing a beer that’s banned in 15 states across America tells us about disrupting the narrative and PR stunts today.

Tuesday, 22 September 2020

What Samuel Adams and releasing a beer that’s banned in 15 states across America tells us about disrupting the narrative and PR stunts today.

Earlier in the year Carlsberg finally admitted that it was ‘probably not the best beer in the world' and looked like it was committed to an act of pure self-destruction as it began promoting social media posts from consumers ridiculing its beer. Yet, with more than 1.1m views on its ‘Mean Tweets’ films in the first 24 hours, consumers saw a different side to the brand as it acknowledged the 'truth' about the quality of Carlsberg in the UK and challenged a new generation of drinkers to ‘re-appraise and re-trial’ its beer. 

Yet Carlsberg isn’t the first brewer to court controversy and certainly won’t be the last. BrewDog has been doing it for years. Who could forget its rather unusual crowdfunding celebrations as the firm chartered a helicopter to fly across London dropping taxidermy ‘fat cats’ from the air. Then there was the time BrewDog offered its continued support for Fifa president Sepp Blatter’s presidency, but only if he brought the Fifa World Cup to Scotland. Its take on a celebratory beer for the Royal Wedding was something else. Indeed, it’s fair to say that the brand is well known for mocking the establishment. 

Of course, all these stunts are designed with one purpose: to put brands at the forefront of the consumer’s mind, presenting an authentic product and hopefully sell more beer. 

Step forward Samuel Adams. This week the brewer decided to create its own disruptive narrative by releasing a beer so strong that it would be illegal in 15 states across America. Described as a barrel-aged beer that tastes of ‘deep rich malty smoothness reminiscent of a vintage port, cognac, or fine sherry’, Utopias has an 28% alcohol by volume (ABV) content, well over double that seen in your average beer. 

Just to ensure you’re seeing double by the end of a bottle it’s blended with previous versions of the beer, some of which have been on the go for nearly a quarter of a century, before being finished in Aquavit, Carcavelos and ruby port finishing barrels. 

Now in its 11th year, only 77 casks have been brewed this time around, so if you manage to get your hands on some, it’s probably best not to go driving your Cadillac after a couple.

But what do all these PR stunts really tell us about the drinks being sold to us or perhaps even, the food on our plates? Well, consumers have to believe in your product and they like you to challenge their perceptions. Moreover, taste is nearly always everything and above all your brand has to shine – whether that be through data, customer experience or something else. 

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