Don’t Judge A Beer By Its Can?

As ethically conscious human beings we have been taught not to judge a book by its cover. However, if we think about consumer behavior this same principle does not seem to hold any weight over our buying choices. I know that growing up I would be more likely to choose a candy bar in bright fun packaging over a similar candy bar packaged in simple sophisticated wrapping. It should come as no shock then that marketing experts and advertisers exploit this inherent bias to sell their products. But sometimes it has the reverse effect. Here is an example.


Picture a can of Miller Lite beer. Recall the vibrant blue color with the large “Lite” spelled out across the center and accented with white. This is recognizable to most consumers and, depending on your preferences, evokes disgust or acceptance of a cheap, somewhat enjoyable beverage. No doubt years of research and design went into the label and it has obviously been quite successful for the brand. However, earlier this year the brand decided to pull out their retro 80’s style label in collaboration with the release of Anchorman 2. This label is significantly less colorful, the script is harder to read, and the fact that it is a Miller beer gets lost somewhere between the wheat of gold and giant “LITE” spelled out across the top.



Miller Lite expected a slight increase in sales initially, due to the hype surrounding Anchorman 2 and the excitement of something new in the beer aisle. But what happened next left them pleasantly baffled. People not only loved the new labels but said that the beer tasted better now. But the beer was exactly the same beer that was bottled in the old cans. So how can this be logical?

The human mind is not always so logical as we all know and several factors can be attributed to this taste-change phenomenon. One of the main influences is nostalgia. Many Miller Lite drinkers grew up in the 80’s, so naturally this label may evoke pleasant childhood or teenage memories. Pseudo-nostalgia may also be evoked in the younger crowds who view anything slightly retro as “cool”. The new white label, so contrasting to the bright blue may have also brought an aura of sophistication previously lacking with the beer.

Whatever the reason, Miller Lite is not too concerned with. Originally this promotion was supposed to last 10-weeks but the company has decided to make the change permanent.

Not all companies have had the same luck however. Tropicana changed their packaging early last year to a sleeker, more modern design. The company suffered a $20 million sales loss with the absence of their brand awareness and by replacing their brand icon, the orange with a straw stuck in it.

Here is the video explaining exactly what happened with Tropicana: 

Northrup, L. (2014, September 2). People Really Think Miller Lite In Vintage-Style Cans Tastes Better. Retrieved September 3, 2014.

Packaging Design Review – Why Tropicana Orange Juice Packaging Failed. (2013, August 5). Retrieved September 3, 2014.

Armon, R. (2013, December 10). Miller brings back original Miller Lite can. Retrieved September 3, 2014.


6 thoughts on “Don’t Judge A Beer By Its Can?

  1. Personally, I think beer drinkers are extremely loyal to their “beer of choice” so, regardless of the label or packaging they will drink it anyway.


  2. It’s interesting that they changed their can based off of the release of Anchorman. Product placement has a lot to do with Hollywood blockbusters and can bring in tons of revenue – did Miller Lite have some kind of sponsorship with the film?


  3. I agree with the statement above that claims that beer drinkers are loyal to their favorite brands. I think when it comes to food or drinks most people are going to go with whatever they are used to eating or love the taste of regardless of the price or packaging. However I do think that changing the packaging to a more sophisticated looking bottle, can, box, etc. definitely can have an effect on consumers purchasing a specific product. With that being said I also believe that anything that a celebrity, movie, show, etc endorses or promotes whether intentional or not also has an impact.


  4. I’m drawn to ‘throwback’ advertisement campaigns. I really like the vintage commercial art because it was usually drawn by hand and had more detail (just look a the hops on the white can!) Often when companies trade out one logo for a new one, something gets left behind. For example, the new Pepsi logo is too reductionist for my taste.


  5. The Tropicana change is a great example of how customer loyalty can trump “cool design.” The new Tropicana was a much cleaner design, but because it destroyed an iconic package, was a huge failure. Hopefully other brands learn from Tropicana’s mistakes, and do better research before they lose $20 million as well.


  6. I agree with the comment above saying that this new can being associated with Anchorman probably had a big influence on people. Being endorsed in a film can give a company a lot of exposure, and Americans have a tendency to follow their favorite celebrities and buy what they are wearing or drinking. Celebrity endorsements are very effective.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s