At risk of it becoming tiresome, we return to Crown Lager’s new campaign, Time, which premiered late last week with lavish television commercials. As the campaign develops, it is obvious that this is a big-monied push by CUB to restore the fortunes of its declining premium beer. As the campaign develops it also becomes clearer that it relies on smoke and mirrors to try to lift the sagging brand in a way that would appear to risk breaching Australia’s Competition and Consumer Act 2010 by representing that the beer is an all-malt product. Quite simply it is not.
In addition to the slogan, “Time: The fifth ingredient”, the campaign comes complete with a website that says, “The finest barley, yeast, water and Pride of Ringwood hops are matured with time under an extended lagering process.” The marketing copy omits the fact that Crown is made with a significant percentage of cane sugar as the fifth ingredient. Use of cane sugar is not itself an issue, it is used in many beers, except the fact is actively being concealed and the opposite is aggressively suggested through the copy.
Compare Crown Lager’s approach with another beer that wraps itself in borrrowed style, Peroni from CUB’s current nemesis, SABMiller.
“Peroni Nastro Azzurro is the superior beer of Italy. It is brewed using the finest hops, two row spring planted barley and contains 25% Italian maize, including the proprietary variety Nostrano Dell’Isola.” (emphasis added).
Sure, saying your beer contains Nostrano Dell’Isola Italian maize sounds better than Bundaberg cane sugar – or whatever Crown use – but it is still an adjunct and it is listed.
While the ‘fifth element’ tagline could be seen as snappy copywriting at the expense of accuracy, just listing four traditional ingredients and omitting sugar on the website could be seen as deliberate concealment. Read together they are misleading.
At a time when all malt beers are coming to be seen as being premium, the tagline and the website could mislead drinkers as what goes to make Crown Lager. If so, this would be a breach of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010. According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission website,
No matter how a business communicates with you—whether it is through packaging, advertising, logos, endorsements or sales pitch—you have the right to receive accurate and truthful messages about the goods and services that you buy.
There is a very broad provision in the Australian Consumer Law that prohibits conduct by a corporation that is misleading or deceptive, or would be likely to mislead or deceive you.
It makes no difference whether the business intended to mislead or deceive you—it is how the conduct of the business affected your thoughts and beliefs that matters.
If the overall impression left by an advertisement, promotion, quotation, statement or other representation made by a business creates a misleading impression in your mind—such as to the price, value or the quality of any goods and services—then the conduct is likely to breach the law.
Whether it breaches the Act or not, far from highlighting any “premium, sophisticated style” of their beer, the CUB marketers are resorting to the tawdry tactics of used car salesman and confidence tricksters. At a time when beer sales are declining, increasing the market’s knowledge and understanding about beer and brewing are important to turning around the category’s fortunes. This campaign shows a contempt for beer drinkers that can only enhance the alienation many feel towards beer and further diminish beer’s credibility in the market place.