Magazine article Marketing

News Analysis: Rain Turns Up the Heat

Magazine article Marketing

News Analysis: Rain Turns Up the Heat

Article excerpt

Drinks firms' summer promotional strategies are struggling to overcome the adverse UK weather.

Each year drinks companies unveil ever more imaginative ways to entice consumers to drink summer-oriented versions of their brands. Encouraged by the long hot summers of the past couple of years, brands launched a slew of extra-cold beers, over-ice ciders, rose wines and long-drink variants of traditionally short drinks at the beginning of this season. Unfortunately, as we know, much of the summer has been a washout, and many brands' summer strategies have suffered accordingly.

C&C Group, owner of the Magners cider brand, recently announced that poor weather in June and July would reduce its sales and profits for the year.

Magners pioneered the over-ice drinking experience that rival brands have since emulated, and so led the resurgence of cider. Unfortunately for Magners, punters still think of it as a uniquely warm-weather experience, despite it making much of the fact that its advertising is year-round to 'de-seasonalise' cider drinking.

Magners is not suffering alone. While most drinks companies claim it is too early to assess the weather's effect on sales, its most pronounced impact will be on the beer sector, predicts Canadean account director Kevin Baker. 'There is a clear correlation between good weather and high beer sales,' he says. 'If you get a football tournament thrown in, you're laughing.'

The biggest recent innovation in the beer market is super-chilled variants, and Baker attributes the relatively poor performance of brands including Stella Artois up until now to the absence of a super-chilled brand in their portfolios.

Nigel Pollard, director of communications at Foster's owner Scottish & Newcastle UK (S&N), agrees that colder drinks have generally been in high demand. The brewer has invested heavily in technology to deliver super-chilled beer of a consistent quality.

'That has been the focus of our advertising,' he says. 'But our core summer messages in direct and integrated marketing focus on Foster's and food - although we have changed the usual summer emphasis from barbecue to broader pub food.'

S&N also has two over-ice cider brands in its portfolio, Bulmer's Original (which it launched at the beginning of the year in direct competition with Magners) and Sirrus, but Pollard claims the company is 'isolated from short-term weather issues' by the strength of its portfolio of cider and beer brands, all of which cater for slightly different drinking occasions.

'The beer market overall was down 5% in the first six months of the year compared with last year, but we've had very comfortable growth during that period,' he says, adding that the pitcher market might also suffer from poor summer weather, 'but not in a big way'. …

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