I’m looking at some of the reasons why the beer industry has had such a hard time selling more beer to women.
Big, Big Problem: Traditional beer marketing has not helped bring women into beer-drinking at all. To be fair, most brewers and beer drinkers are men. An awful lot of labels have raunchy illustrations of minimally clad women – which is a off-putting to any woman who’d like to be treated with a little respect. At the very least, they tell a woman this wasn’t made for them. The consumer doesn’t make much distinction between the container and the beer inside unless it’s a product they know they love. I’m not likely to find out whether I like a beer with a raunchy label. I’m likely to avoid it altogether.
Happily, in this craft-happy market there’s plenty of good beer with great label art that allows a beer-loving woman some dignity.
As a heterosexual adult female, I approve of guys’ being interested in provocative pictures of women, and I enjoy a bit of flirty sexual tension as much as the full-grown adult. If I am holding a beer with a woman shedding her clothes on the label, the guys around me (it’s still mostly guys at beer-drinking events) are thinking about the label. A good part of their brain is taken up thinking about that label, and we all know guys can’t multitask. I have to work harder to get their full attention – except for the rare man who gets it right away: here’s a living, breathing female with all those attributes but better because they’re right here.
Don’t believe me? Google “sexist beer labels”. There are plenty. As if the Budweiser supermodels weren’t enough: Southern Star Bombshell Blonde’s label has a cowgirl astride a rather obviously evocative blunt-nosed rocket. Midnight Sun’s Party Peeler (Belgian Tripel) features a woman astride a leaping reindeer shedding her clothes in the night. Middle Ages Double Wench is a classic: a totally vapid, undoubtedly stoned college-age girl falling out of her cheap Ren Faire blouse (where did they find that one?). None of those make me want to even consider trying the beer.
Do beers’ names matter as well? How do I feel about asking for Flying Dog’s Raging Bitch (recent winner of the Carrie Nation Contest)? I enjoy a good Belgian beer with pine and grapefruit notes from the hops. I am uncomfortable asking for a Raging Bitch; it feel like I need to apologize for something. I expect someone to assume I want to be a raging bitch right now. There is no way I can tell someone what I’m drinking without the name reflecting on the woman holding it.When I order a beer with a tough name like Buster Nut (Brown Ale) or Bananas and Blow (creme ale and they don’t even get the accent right over the e), the guys around me seem to think I’m making a feminist statement of some sort, filtered through whatever they think a “feminist” is. I have to put on a shrug of disdain and pretend I don’t care. It’s an extra effort and unnecessary to my goal of the evening, which is to relax and enjoy myself and my beer; it’s social noise, and vaguely embarrassing.
Besidese, I don’t need to to hold a beer called Raging Bitch to make a point. I like men a lot, but in a lot of ways my entire life is a feminist statement. I hope my personal style is more elegant than that. Not that there aren’t days…
It’s got to be a real conundrum for the manufacturers. There’s plenty of good beer out there, but a lot of it is hidden, as it were, behind this not-woman-friendly packaging. 80% of beer is drunk by men, and the labels are working fine for them; that’s where the cash is (currently). Manufacturers have gone overboard in trying to create labels and packaging that would appeal to women – swirly-curly pink-and-purple labelling with cute names and pretty awful slosh inside (I’ve mentioned several in my last few posts). They’re rather missing the whole point of having a beer. For now, I guess the only answers ares to avoid beers with labels and names that are just too-too, or if you can, to focus on the beer and ignore the bottle/label/message that it comes with. It’s all rather depressing, and does mean money in the pockets of those making them. I’m not willing to say “Don’t drink it” if the label is awful but the beer is really good – but that would have to be some pretty spectacular beer.
Oh, for what it’s worth, the same principle applies to competitions. If you want women to enter, think about what you’re calling it.