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VB to Australia: It’s not us. It’s you.

November 9, 2011

It started with a seemingly insignificant line in a speech.

“Take VB, for example. Its history stretches back to 1854. VB was brewed with one goal in mind: to be enjoyed ice cold. It was the first beer brewed specifically for Australia’s climate. That meant developing the unique Pride of Ringwood hops to deliver a full-flavoured beer even when served cold – perfect for a hard earned thirst.” *1


At the time we gave them the benefit of the doubt that this was just a bit of loose writing for a speech, but it turns out that it was the first salvo in VB’s latest campaign to win back the punters.

The next step was to launch the  commercial below. It hadn’t occurred to me until now that there is a nice little metaphor in Australia’s once titanic beer brand crashing into a bag of ice. (update – and even nicer is to find that two years ago  a spokesman for VB described VB is being like the Titanic, “Like the Titanic, VB is a large brand and it takes time to turn things around” . It looks like they have decided not to turn it around, and instead are letting it crash into the iceberg.)

Now, they are releasing a suite of products designed to tell us when VB is cold enough to taste good. It seems as though the decline in VB hasn’t been due to low consumer confidence and adverse weather events at all. It’s been because we just haven’t been doing it right.

If your fridge isn't cold enough, freeze the flavour into your beer.

According to The Australian’s article, senior brand manager Craig MacLean said there was a need to get consumers to understand that VB was often not drunk under the best conditions (*2) , with the suggestion being that we haven’t been drinking the beer cold enough.

VB has since revealed its VB Freezer timer, launched with the question, “Have you ever left your beer in the freezer a little too long? Why hasn’t someone invented a device to tell you when your beer is ice cold? Oh wait, we have.”

What was that? Left your beer IN THE FREEZER too long???????

I’m sorry, but if serving your beer from the FRIDGE isn’t “the best conditions” and you’re seriously encouraging people to put your beer in the FREEZER to get it just right, I don’t think the problem is with the beer drinker.

Hairdresser Tenille and her sisters, may just have put their collective fingers on CUB’s problem. “VB is basically seen as a bogan beer.”

When you have Australia’s national  newspaper reporting this, your brand’s problem probably isn’t going to be fixed with a little bit more ice.


*1 VB’s history may indeed stretch back to 1854, but it was initially an ale. It was not “brewed with one goal in mind: to be enjoyed ice cold”. Likewise, it was not “the first beer brewed specifically for Australia’s climate.” The Foster’s brothers introducing commercial refrigeration to Australia – thus making lager brewing possible — in 1887 (Lager was first made in Australia in around 1882). In his book The Breweries of Australia, historian Keith Duetsher says that until this time – i.e. before refrigeration made lagers possible here, so when VB was introduced in 1854 – beers were “relatively strong, slightly thick and malty, and consumed at room temperature”. Hardly brewed ‘to be enjoyed ice cold’.

*2 Now Craig may not have said that; my own comments in that story were a little bit of a mash up.  (see below *3). I would love to know exactly what Craig said, but I can’t. Despite CUB briefing some journos (the non beer-covering type…AKA, the ones that won’t question the spin – and didn’t that strategy do them a lot of good), I have been chasing details about the gadgets and the media release since I was contacted by The Australian over the weekend. Although this campaign has been planned for months, it seems as though the media release to tell the media what the media has already been told is still ‘being approved’.

*3 I can’t recall my exact words to the journo, but it was more along the lines of: “VB may want you to drink it colder but, scientifically, if something is colder you actually taste it less. If VB’s advice is to make it that cold, you could be drinking anything. You could drink any yellow liquid if its cold enough. While drinking a beer very cold may make it more refreshing, a good lager will still taste good as it warms up, and you could even enjoy the taste at room temperature.”


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