|No, wait - this is going to blow your freakin' mind.|
The thing is, Stella owners AB-Inbev and I are not on speaking terms at the moment. I no longer get press releases from them, and I certainly don't get invited to events such as the launch of Stella Cidre, which happened yesterday.
Was it something I said?
Anyway, in the absence of any facts, I'm left with no alternative but to fabricate an utterly spurious and quite unfair conversation about this latest marketing triumph.
Hello, Stella Artois!
Hello, Pete. You're not going to be mean to me are you?
Of course not. I'm just going to ask you some questions. So what's this latest launch of yours then?
Right, you're not going to believe what we've done. As you'll know from what we've done to Stella Artois over the last ten years, we don't actually like the taste of beer. Hops make us gag. We've managed to get rid of as much of the flavour as possible, but even when we use these ingredients in homeopathic quantities, you still get a bit of a taste. So we were thinking, like, what if we could invent a drink that's kind of like beer, but is made of something else and doesn't have to have horrid hops in it at all? And then we had a flash of genius! You might not know this, but apples have fermentable sugars in them. So we've invented this new alcoholic drink that's a bit like beer except it's loosely based on apples, and we've called it - cider! Except we wanted to make it sound a bit French, so we spelt it wrong. Cidre!!
But cider's existed since at least Roman times.
Has it? Bollocks.
Yes. And it's really popular just now. There are loads of ciders on the UK market, they're doing really well.
Well, it sounds like we got here just in time then! But never mind that. We decided to do something that no one else has EVER done before. You'll never guess. This is going to fuck with your brain. What we're doing, right, is launching this 'cidre' in a pint bottle and get this - we're suggesting people drink it in a pint glass full of ice! Now is that innovation or what?!
Well, no it's not. Magner's introduced that concept to the mainstream UK cider market five years ago. And every big brand has copied them. You're kind of late to the party here.
No, you must be mistaken. Look here, our CEO says this is "another demonstration of our commitment to innovation and investment in Stella Artois". Innovation means new, right?
OK, moving on. It's been pointed out that the launch of this product means the Stella Artois brand now provides both ingredients for the infamously intoxicating cocktail, snakebite. Any thoughts on that?
Absolutely. Stella Artois is dogged by an undeserved reputation as loopy juice, and some people even call it 'Wifebeater'. Giving our drinkers permission to create Stella snakebite seems like the perfect way to rid the brand of this entirely undeserved reputation. And as an added value proposition, our consumers can also now interface with Stella Artois 'Snakebite and Black'? Heh heh!
Yes, but in this context, the word 'black' is short for 'blackcurrant'.
No it's not. Not if we say it isn't.
Fair enough. So what's in it then? What percentage apple juice is it?
Look, even if I knew or understood how cider was made, you know I wouldn't tell you.
Finally, most marketing theory advises against launching endless line extensions when the parent brand is in decline. Positioning, The Battle For Your Mind, by Ries and Trout, is a marketing classic that refers to this as one of the most common positioning traps in marketing, giving countless examples of how, 90% of the time, it results in failure that can also further weaken the parent brand...
Ooh, get Mr Swotty here with his fancy marketing speak. I don't know what any of that means, but let me tell you mister, we don't use the word failure around here. Artois Bock? Peeterman Artois? Eiken Artois? Stella Black? Successes. Every last one of 'em.
So no qualms about wilfully confusing what Stella Artois stands for and diluting brand equity rather than exploring Belgium's genuine cider making tradition and creating an intriguing new brand that just might have an air of authenticity about it then?
OK, until your next - what did you call it? - 'innovation' then, cheers!
Thanks to Chris Ainger for the snakebite observation, and to Chris G for the Snakebite and Black gag.
There really is a Belgian cider making tradition. Stella Artois Cidre will be brewed in Belgium. Whether or not there is any connection between these two facts, we'll have to wait and see. I will try Stella Cidre when I come across it, and if it tastes nice, I'll say so.