Miller Brewing Company: Advertising Throughout the Years

The Miller Brewing Company, now MillerCoors, was founded in 1855 by Frederick John Miller after immigrating to Milwaukee from Germany, where he was a renowned German brewer at the age of twenty five. After making his way from New York to Milwaukee he purchased the Plank Road Brewery and began his business. Miller worked his way up to becoming the nation’s second largest brewery (“Timeline”). Our society today has changed a lot since the Miller Brewing Company opened in 1855. Advertising alone has gone from dull pictures to short video clips during commercials. Bottle designs have changed to become more futuristic. Then, after the Prohibition, people were concerned that beer ads on television would offend viewers’ feelings, so any commercial with someone actually consuming a beer was played late at night, but never on Sundays (“Beer and Television: Perfectly Tuned In”). Today, this is not the case. Sundays are arguably one of the most popular day for beer commercials because it is “Sunday Football”. Football games are a common place to see beer consumers and advertising whether you are at the game or not.

One of MillerCoors’ product Miller Lite, is well known and a popular low calorie beer that came out in 1975. A 12 ounce bottle of Miller Lite has about 96 calories compared to Miller Genuine Draft has 143 calories for a 12 ounce bottle (“How Many Calories in Beer? Calories in Beer, Alcohol in Beer, Carbs in Beer”). I argue that Miller Lite Beer changes its advertising to appeal to changes in masculinity. Beer in general is considered to be manly, but over the years I argue that beer has become less of a manly thing. Miller Lite used to only want hyper masculine men to be in the commercials drinking a low calorie beer because in the 1970s it was considered “sissy” to drink a low calorie beer because masculine men should not be counting calories. Low calorie or lite beer was considered to be feminine so the advertisements had to have hyper masculine men in them. Then, in the 2000s, lite beer was still considered to be feminine, but the great taste was associated with masculinity and then made it okay to drink MillerLite. Today, we see commercials and advertisements with not so manly men drinking beer and getting the same amount of attention because manly is considered to be a “jokester”. Over time all the beer adds up and causes people to get a big gut, or “beer belly”. Even though this would come across as manly, people did not want that. Over the years, our society is becoming more healthy and trying to find different ways to promote low calorie foods and drinks because over time our world has become obese. So, the Miller Brewing Company wanted beer drinkers to be able to drink beer and look manly with less calories. Because of this mindset, Miller’s ad agency, McCann-Erickson made it their mission to “find the toughest, manliest guys out there and put them on TV [promoting] the [goodness] of Lite Beer from Miller” (Beer and Television: Perfectly Tuned In). The agency came up with the slogan “less filling” because it sounded manlier than “low calorie”. Throughout the years Miller’s ad agency has shot over 80 commercials with nearly 40 celebrities and sport icons starring in them to promote their “less filling” beer.

This commercial is from 1978 with a hyper masculine man named Joe Frazier. Frazier, also known as “Smokin’ Joe” a famous heavyweight boxer and singer as well as a tough, masculine figure to the public in the 1970s. In this commercial Frazier is singing about Miller Lite Beer. He emphasizes in the commercial that it is a lite, or low calorie beer that has “third less calories than the regular beer” that “makes [Frazier] shout”. In the commercial it says “order lite beer from Miller and say no more” this indicates that if you ask for a Miller Lite, you will not be questioned for drinking a low calorie beer because all of the hyper masculine men drink it too. The commercial even shows the average analysis of the 12 ounce beer which we do not see nowadays in commercials.

I thought it was interesting how in this commercial Joe Frazier, and his back up singers, are looking straight toward the camera and singing to the audience. It is interesting because we do not see many beer commercials like that now from Miller Lite. The older commercials seem more personal because they are actually talking to the audience as if they were there with them. Also, the tagline used at the end of the commercial is “Everything you have always wanted in a beer. And less”. The “And less” part of the tagline is to tell that it is “less filling” or low calorie, so it is better for you than other beers. It is important to make sure “Lite beer” comes across as masculine and not “sissy” so men are looked at as manly and able to get women.

This is a Miller Lite Beer Commercial from the year 1981 with another hyper masculine famous figure in it, Marv Throneberry. Throneberry is a famous American Major League Baseball player, best remembered as playing for the New York Mets in 1962 as starting first baseman (“Marv Throneberry”). He is looked at as a manly figure because of his success. In this commercial Frank Deford, a sportswriter, is taking about a successful living legend in baseball who he cannot find anything bad to write about, and who got him to try his favorite beer, Lite Beer from Miller. A manager and former baseball player, Billy Martin is sitting next to Deford thinking he is talking about him when really he is talking about Throneberry. Deford orders a beer and hands it to Throneberry as Throneberry replies “cheer up Billy, one day you’ll be famous just like me”.

This commercial is talking highly about the success of Marv Throneberry and associating it with him drinking Miller Lite. When the audience sees this commercial then they have the impression that because Marv Throneberry’s favorite beer is MillerLite, and he is considered to be a manly figure, then if they drink Miller Lite manly too. I also noticed in this commercial the famous figures looking into the camera again speaking to the audience directly. This catches the audience’s attention because it makes you pay more attention to the person speaking. The commercial has the same tagline as the last commercial from 1978 “Everything you have always wanted in a beer. And less”. The tagline is still a big part in making sure the beer comes across as masculine rather than feminine.

This is a commercial from 2010. In this commercial a male customer is asking for a low calorie beer. The bartender, who is a female, asks if he cares how the beer tastes. He responds with “nah, I don’t care how it tastes”. Since he does not care how his beer tastes the female bartender gives him a light beer other than Miller Lite and says “Okay well when you start caring put down your purse and I’ll give you a Miller Lite”. I thought this was interesting because the bartender just insulted him with a reference towards his masculinity, and because he actually was carrying a purse which is considered to be feminine. Up until this commercial we have not seen anything insulting a man’s masculinity or the man actually having something feminine. This commercial from 2010 shows that we still understand that a lite beer is feminine, but Miller’s taste is manly and overrides the femininity. Also, in the 2010 commercial the tagline has changed from “Everything you have always wanted in a beer. And less.” to “Taste Greatness”. The “Taste Greatness” tagline goes along with the taste being the masculine part about the beer and not the calories.

I think that 2010 was the turning point of where the Miller Brewing Company changed their approach to advertising. We see more about the great taste of the beer being manly, than having a hyper masculine figure drinking the beer being manly. The commercial is focused around the taste of the beer and not so much on its low calorie factor. By Miller Lite focusing more on the great tasting beer it attracts more consumers because people want to drink something that taste good and shows masculinity, and having it be fewer calories is even better.

 This is the most recent advertisement for Miller Lite Beer from the Miller Brewing Company in the year 2013. This commercial has the celebrity, Ken Jeong, who is most commonly known from the movie The Hangover, a movie primarily about drinking. Jeong in the commercial is interesting because Jeong is not a stereotypical masculine man, Jeong is a jokester. Jeong is not described as masculine because he is not attractive, muscular, and does not seem like he would get any women, which is what our world looks at as being manly.

In this commercial jokesters are being described as masculine. This is the same for our society today. Jokesters are becoming masculine figures versus attractive men with muscles. In the commercial Jeong, because of his jokester personality, gets the girls and is looked at as masculine for drinking MillerLite. I also noticed that in this commercial there is nothing that talks about it being a low calorie, less filling, or lite beer except for when it says the actual title “MillerLite”. I think MillerLite is now known for being a light beer that the advertisements no longer need to include that point. Also, the tagline does not talk about its low calories or its great taste. The new tagline for 2013 is “It’s not just any time it’s Miller Time”. This can easily get stuck in your head so that you will remember it and thus want to buy it once you see it in the store. This commercial associates MillerLite Beer with girls, parties, and masculinity.

MillerLite can from 1970
MillerLite can from 1970 (Source: Landor)
MillerLite 2013 Chrome Bottle
MillerLite 2013 Chrome Bottle (Source: Steve Baker)
MillerLite 2013 Bottle
MillerLite 2013 Bottle (Source: Rolling Out)

I also want to argue that the bottles have become more futuristic. As we see in the 1970s the bottle of Miller Lite was just a mostly white can with blue and gold lettering and a box shape. In 2013 we have a chrome bottle that is very futuristic. I argue that the chrome bottle looks futuristic because the advertising agency from the Miller Brewing Company wants the bottles to look futuristic so it is not associated with femininity. When I see the chrome bottle it reminds me of spaceships, or television shows I watched as a child that would go into the future and show what the world would look like so many years from now. Chrome is associated with the future because every year a new piece of technology comes out that surprises us. Also, when I think of chrome I think of something new and improved. Our society is also looking for the newest thing in technology, fashion, dietary needs, etc. For example, we want the newest iPhone 5s even if we just got the iPhone 5 because the iPhone 5s is newer, shiner, and has more that it can do. The new chrome MillerLite bottle is something we have never had as a beer bottle before so it interests us and makes us want to have it. The commercials advertise for the chrome bottles because it is the newest product to come out of the Miller Brewing Company.

Another bottle design in 2013 is a brown glass bottle with a mostly blue label on it. It is interesting because the design of the bottle is more feminine, or curvy than manly. The design of this curvy bottle makes it easier for people to hold it because of the small top. Also, the curvy design remind men of women. In the second logo from MillerLite in 2013 we see that it says “when great friends come together to start a business. It’s Miller Time.” The idea of Miller Time is bringing a group of men together and what brings men together better than beer and women. The bottle is shaped curvy and feminine because women bring men together to drink beer. The idea of the bottle is that a man is holding a woman. Curves are an attractive quality for a woman to have, so making the bottle curvy attracts the man consumers of beer, men to buy that specific bottle. Because we look at masculinity as getting girls, the best way to attract manly men is with a feminine bottle. These three logos used throughout the years for the beer MillerLite show us how much it has changed from when it first came out to now. The shape of the bottle has changed from a box shaped can to a curvy feminine bottle and futuristic chrome bottle. The commercials have gone through hyper masculine men to jokesters and emphasizing the low calories to not even talking about them. MillerLite is a beer that has been around for a long time and looks like it will be around for a longer time with the way its advertisements reflect society.

Works Cited

“Beer and Television: Perfectly Tuned In.” Beer History. Beer History LTD. 2013. Web. 1 Dec 2013.

“Billy Martin.” Wikipedia. Wikipedia LTD. 2013. Web. 10 Dec 2013.

“How Many Calories in Beer? Calories in Beer, Alcohol in Beer, Carbs in Beer.” Beer100 LTD. 2013. Web. 1 Dec 2013.

“Proud History.” MillerCoors. MillerCoors LTD. 2013. Web. 1 Dec 2013.

“Marv Throneberry.” Wikipedia. Wikipedia LTD. 2013. Web. 10 Dec 2013.

“Miller Lite.” Landor. Landor LTD. 2013. Web. 2013. 1 Dec 2013.

“Our Beer.” MillerLite. MillerLite LTD. 2013. Web. 1 Dec 2013.

“Timeline.” MillerCoors. MillerCoors LTD. 2013. Web. 1 Dec 2013.