Recently MillerCoors released their newest product called “Henry’s Hard Soda,” an alcoholic soda sweetened with cane sugar in orange and ginger flavors. This release manifests MillerCoors desire to hop onboard the explosive craft beer and more recently the hard cider movement.
In their first major advertising push on TV and digital marketing, MillerCoors is targeting Generation Xers, those aged 34-54, encouraging them to live “Hard-ish.” Conceptually, the ads feature young suburbanites who have grown up but are not yet ready to commit to being “grown ups.” The ads are impressively honest, leading with the insight that Gen Xers want to have fun and socialize but realistically, they likely have work or a family that takes precedence. Additionally, MillerCoors hopes to capture both the wallets and hearts of Gen Xers: this group was the largest soda-drinking generation during their youth, and they now have an increased disposable income to spend on this alternative beverage.
An alcoholic soda though?
I consulted the research to see if this seemed to be a sound, strategic product line extension for the alcohol giant. MillerCoors’ decision to advertise primarily on TV should reach their target Gen Xers effectively, as the cohort is more motivated to buy based on recollection of TV or print advertising. Further, Henry’s aims to be the drink-of-choice for Gen Xers at social events, but research proves that older generations are more likely to drink spirits for themselves; Gen X reported a 50/50 split between drinking at social occasions and “only by myself.”
It’s understandable that MillerCoors is attempting to ride the coattails of success from new brands like Small Town Brewery’s Not Your Father’s Root Beer and similar copycats. Unlike Henry’s Hard Soda, however, Not Your Father’s is technically considered a beer variety, and is typically placed alongside craft beers in stores. The transition to try this new alternative, thus, isn’t as intimidating for Gen Xers as they’ve already begun to shift their spending towards craft beers.
In order to be successful, MillerCoors will have to position themselves differently to avoid the tragic fate of their previously attempted “malternatives” like Zima. The high cane sugar content may be off-putting to beer drinkers, and the alcohol percentage (4.2%) is low even for Mike’s Hard Lemonade drinkers. While nostalgia is influential, I’m not yet convinced Henry’s Hard Soda will make Gen Xers feel as good as soda once did, but I’m hoping MillerCoors will prove me wrong.