Dead Men Don't Drink Beer ... But Noir Buffs Apparently Do

by , May 18, 2007, 5:00 AM
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Drinking and driving is obviously verboten, but there's no law (yet) prohibiting adults from enjoying a brewsky while playing a web game.

Exploiting this gaping loophole in political correctness, the naughty marketers at Anheuser-Busch's Grolsch Lager have launched an interactive mystery inspired by 1950's film noir movies, "Grolsch Gardens" (grolschgardens.com).

And in the tongue-in-cheek spirit of the concept, they're not holding back on the over-heated verbiage. The Grolsch press release describes the site as "delivering delicious jolts of excitement via a truly innovative point-and-click experience" by dropping players into the middle of a noir adventure and challenging them to untangle the complicated plot. The objective: Save "the beautiful Miriam Minx ... a lady in distress who needs to lay low for a while," from the villains.

To assist in their sleuthing, users can employ a "rear window" that looks out onto the Grolsch Gardens complex and "invites guests to peek into their neighbor's windows" for clues.

Hmmm ... beer drinking and harmless voyeurism: Do we smell a winning concept here? (Note: Users must supply a birth date to demonstrate that they're 21 before being admitted to the game.)

"This web site is an innovative new concept in marketing beer," says Grolsch Product Manager Rick Oleshak, perhaps being too modest. "We created Grolsch Gardens because we know today's import beer drinker is looking for new ways to experience the brands they enjoy." The mystery-cum-suds online experience "represents a more personal dialogue with our consumers," he adds.

Grolsch Gardens will be promoted through online and video-sharing Web sites and public relations, as well as with point-of-sale items and promotional merchandise.

Acquired by Anheuser-Busch last year, Grolsch Lager has been brewed in the Netherlands since 1615 and first entered the U.S. in 1974. Famous for its signature swing top bottle (legend has it that a near-revolt on the part of locals put a halt to the brewer's plan to ditch the swing top back in the 50s), Grolsch is now sold in more than 60 countries, and is the No. 2 lager in the Netherlands and the No. 11 premium import in the U.S.

While A-B is clearly having some fun with the brand, there is most certainly a method behind this madness, and that method is all about growing demand for premium imported beers, particularly among young males.

Imports are driving both price and volume in the U.S. beer market. Imports sales jumped by 58% between 2001 and 2006, reaching $18.6 billion and accounting for 20% of the overall beer market, according to a December 2006 imported beer study from Mintel International.

Import volume increased by 24% during the period (beers from the Netherlands account for 25% of that volume), and their average price, based on a 2.25-gallon case, grew 27%.

In contrast, overall U.S. beer sales grew 28%, volume was virtually flat (a word particularly cringe-inducing in the beer category), and domestic beer prices rose 23%.

And while it's certainly not beyond imagination that Baby Boomer men--and women--might enjoy sipping a "smooth, full-bodied" lager with a "characteristically creamy head" while solving a mystery, it doesn't take Mike Hammer to figure that this online gambit is mainly a play with campy appeal for young men, rather than targeted at adults who might have caught the classic noir flicks in their first runs.

The smoking gun: 64% of drinkers of imported regular (as opposed to light) beers are male, 24% are males between the ages of 25 and 34, and another 25% are males between the ages of 35 and 44.

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