Beer advertising creates no added value

  • Marketing and communication must convey values and emotions to create added value for the brand.
  • 7 out of 10 beer campaigns tested convey irrelevant or no values and emotions at all.
  • Using Emotional Territories, the right values and emotions can be determined.

Do you remember the beer commercial „… that made my bellybutton tingle so beautifully?“ (Reminder: here) Much time has passed since then. In 2017 the advertising for the same brand looked like this:

Have you ever asked yourself why these (and many other) spots do not touch you emotionally at all? We did. We are not interested in the entertainment value of advertising, but in its economic sense and purpose. Especially in a highly competitive market like the beer market (but also in practically all other industries) advertising should build up what is rightly called „brand values“: non-rational content – values and emotions – which constitute the added value of the brand. And thus justify their extra cost.

Which values and emotions are the right ones? Do the beer campaigns manage to evoke the relevant emotions? These questions are important enough to be addressed by scientific means. So we determined the relevant values and emotions for beer and tested 10 campaigns from 2017.

Spoiler alert: Beer advertising unfortunately does not do its job (anmore)

Most campaigns serve the wrong or in many cases even no relevant values and emotions at all.

Background: Shrinking market, declining advertising impact

Let’s start with the overall picture: over the last 10 years, beer sales in Germany have fallen from 88.503 million hl to 77.210 million hl (-12.8%). Sales did not decline quite as strongly. 8.19 billion became €7.843 billion (-4.2%). To compensate for the losses, the brewers have taken two main measures: more special offers and more advertising. Thus according to BV GFGH the national beer brands have a promotion share of more than 2/3. In 2015 it was even as high as 76.3%. The industry’s advertising expenditure amounted to EUR 416 million in 2017 (+4.3% compared to 2010). The increase appears to be moderate. But a closer look at the numbers reveals something frightening:

The advertising Euro has massively lost purchasing power

While 10 years ago an advertising euro „sold“ more than 22 liters of beer, in 2017 it was only 18.6 liters. That is a whopping 16% less. Why is that so? Why does the cumulative power of over four billion euros not succeed in selling more beer to people. In fact, it is rather the other way round: the more beer is advertised, the less beer is sold.

2007: 88.5 million hl
2017: 77,2 Mio. hl
Less sales

2007: 389,7 Mio. €
2017: 416,0 Mio. €
More advertising

2007: 8,19 Mrd. €
2017: 7,8 Mrd. €
Less turnover
2007: 22,2l Bier / €
2017: 18,6l Bier / €
Significantly less impact

More advertising than hops and malt

Fun Fact: The share of advertising costs is immense. There is more advertising in beer than hops and malt. Such an important component should give at least as much character as the actual ingredients.

Making brands valuable again with emotions

The right values and emotions can create added value that goes beyond the material value. Therefore it is basically right to put so much advertising money into each bottle of beer. But only if the advertising addresses the relevant values and emotions. In the case of beer it does not. And we can prove it.

The right values and emotions – this is what drinking beer feels like

With our tool „Emotional Territories“ we have determined which values and emotions people associate with beer. A representative sample of over 1,000 people were confronted with 52 values and emotions. The algorithm examined the responses for patterns and determined 5 value fields and their structure. This resulted in a so-called „Emotional Map“, which shows exactly which values and emotions are relevant forhow many people. More about the method, and why it can distinguish almost infinitely many feelings with 52 values and emotions, can be foundhere.

The result of the study shows: Beer occupies a total of 5 value fields with partially complex substructures.

The 5 value fields are (sorted by decreasing agreement)

  1. Homeland (green)
  2. Sociability (orange)
  3. Indulgence (red)
  4. Reward (blue)
  5. Individualism (brown)

The top ten brands in the test

Subsequently, we reviewed the campaigns of the top ten beer brands: The test subjects were shown the most important advertising media (mostly TV commercials) for 2017 and were asked to place these campaigns on the emotional map. They were able to assign each individual campaign to either individual values and emotions or – if possible – the more complex but more meaningful value combinations. They also had the opportunity to place the campaign off the map. Were examined the campaigns of Beck’s, Bitburger, Holsten, Jever, König Pilsener, Krombacher, Radeberger, Schöfferhofer, Veltins, Warsteiner.

The results were visualized in heat maps. Red areas show where most (relative or absolute majority) of the mentions are located. Yellow areas are values and emotions of medium intensity for the respective brand. The blue areas were only sporadically associated with the tested brand.

Campaigns that consist of nothing

In three of the tested campaigns (Warsteiner, Schöfferhofer, König Pilsener), more than 50% of all mentions of the test subjects were outside the emotional map! Off the map means: The campaigns either do not trigger any emotions at all or they address values and emotions that are not relevant to beer (and therefore do not appear on the map). In terms of values and emotions, these campaigns consist mainly of – nothing!
They make no relevant statement about values or emotions.


The campaign: group selfie with beer bottles. View now

Beispielbild s7
The heat map: Mainly nothing with sporadic mentions in the context of friendship


The campaign: roof garden party with mermaid. View now

Beispielbild s7
The heat map: Mainly nothing with sporadic exuberance, lust and self-confidence. Plus a little bit of hope.

König Pilsener

The spot: Off to the couch!
View now

Beispielbild s7

Much nothing – and much general

In two other campaigns – those of Radeberger and Jever – „Nothing“ does not have an absolute majority of mentions, but it is still the main ingredient of the campaign. Both Radeberger and Jever manage, after all, to set an emotional focus. However, these are very general values and emotions. Radeberger conveys the feeling of „tradition“, while Jever focuses on the value of „naturalness“.

The fact that these values are very general and unspecific values can be seen from the fact that the test persons‘ mentions refer mainly to the basic items and not to the more specific combinations of values within the individual value fields.


The campaign: We describe the beer by describing the customer. View now

Heatmap Radeberger
The heat map: Most mentions outside the map, but a clear focus on tradition and a flare-up when it comes to performance and challenge.


The campaign: Drinking beer together on the North Sea beach. View now

Heatmap Jever

The attempt to own category values

Similar, although much more noticeable is the communications of Krombacher and Bitburger: Both marks occupy a basis feeling – naturalness. Krombacher even manages this particularly well. In the „Emotional Territories“ analysis, the item „naturalness“ received 81.0% approval, making it one of the most widely accepted beer emotions. That sounds like good news, but it doesn’t make the campaigns a self-starter. Values like „naturalness“ (in addition, „tradition“ and „friendship“) are to be understood as hygiene factor exactly because of their wide acceptance. It might be difficult to differentiate a brand with values like these. And it is even more difficult to create real added value with these values. This thesis is supported by the fact that both brands have to support their success with very aggressive price promotions and/or lottery and sponsoring activities.


The campaign: The classic – island, forest plus three beer drinkers.
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Heatmap Krombacher
The heat map: Almost only naturalness. With a sporadic mention in the value field „Sociability“. And finally the nothing has practically disappeared.


The campaign: hop fields and drinking beer.
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Heatmap Bitburger
The heat map: A focus on naturalness. Otherwise a lot of nothing and sporadically a little bit from nearly every value-field.

Interim conclusion: Valueless instead of valuable

If a campaign does not manage to build up and own values for the brand or merely communicates hygiene factors – i.e. things that are taken for granted – it is not surprising that the brand does not appear valuable in the eyes of the consumer. The result: declining price acceptance on the one hand and trying to escape into special offers on the other. Thus, a lack of values leads to a decline in the value of a brand. And this also explains the high share of promotional activities.

There are other ways – specific values and emotions as a basis for positioning

Three brands – Veltins, Holsten and Beck’s – are obviously going a different way. They occupy a different kind of values and emotions in the eyes (or hearts) of consumers – more complex, more specific, which also have a higher potential for differentiation and value creation.

The Veltins campaign focuses on feelings that not long ago could be attributed to the König Pilsener brand: Performance, ambition and, beyond that, the joy of winning or achievement in general. The claim „Pure passion. Fresh Veltins.“ does not really fit necessarily. This suggests that Veltins has positioned itself as a winner rather by chance. The 2018 campaign confirms this assumption, as it completely abandons the promising approach and moves in a completely different direction. It can probably best be summarized by the hand movement of the lady in the last scene. What a pity.

Holsten goes a different way. There they also decided to use the value field „Reward“ and set values like performance, diligence and ambition but also „higher“ value combinations like „Work hard“ or „Do a good job“.

This can be a good basis to credibly serve a niche – the acceptance of these values averages 34%, the acceptance of the combination is logically even lower with 17.6% and 10.6% respectively -. With its „Astra“ brand, which occupies the niche of the „outlaw“ (17.0%), the Holsten brewery has already achieved something similar.

The Beck’s brand is positioned more broadly. It focuses on the value field „sociability“ (average acceptance of the values: 76.5%) without losing itself in its general validity. That happened to Warsteiner, by the way. Warsteiner banalized the already very open-ended emotion of „friendship“ into an even more contourless feeling of acquaintance.

How does Beck do it? It is noticeable that the majority of mentions for Beck’s are not on the single-items. All of these are relevant, but are more likely to be hygiene factors. Beck’s succeeds in retrieving mainly the more complex feelings that make up the value field „sociability“: Values and emotions that consist of up to 10 individual items, i.e. are very specific.


The campaign: vignettes from sport, culture and private life.
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Heatmap Veltins
The heat map: Pretty consistent focus on the (niche) values performance, pride and winner. Supplemented by fun and exuberance and other sporadic mentions.


The campaign: Tough men, hard work, good beer. View now

Heatmap Holsten
The heat map: Very consistently on the way in the value field „Reward“. The brand occupies values like „Really good work“ or „Work something out“. Both in the combination and in the underlying items. The relatively many mentions of „nothing“ can perhaps be explained by the niche character of the value field „reward“.


The campaign: On the way to yourself – (almost) without a sailing ship.
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Heatmap Holsten
The heat map: A large value field successfully occupied. And not only the most general values, but especially the „higher combinations“.

Conclusion: values create value

It is the role of marketing and communication to charge a brand with values and emotions to make it valuable. This cannot succeed if either no or irrelevant values and emotions are addressed.

It also makes little sense to address unspecific basic emotions. Of course beer stands for naturalness and sociability. These are basic factors whose fulfillment does not produce added value. However, they can – if they are specified or enhanced – be the basis for an independent, value-adding positioning.

What to do? (Applies not only to breweries)

Marketing and communication should create values and emotions for the brand. The added value justifies the additional price. This logic applies not only to the beer industry.

Anyone who wants to create added value for their brand through values and emotions should be absolutely certain that they know the relevant value fields for their brand or industry. Intuition and gut feeling are out of place. Values and emotions should be viewed soberly and be measured and described precisely with scientifically based tools such as Emotional Territories. This knowledge can then be used to create communication that makes your brand more valuable.