"Beer is banned in 13 states!" scream the press releases.
Samuel Adams recently uncorked this year's version of its biennial Utopias beer with lots of hype about the 27% alcohol content that exceeds the legal limit in 13 states.
Wow. You'd think people would be up in arms. You'd expect lawsuits, protesters, speeches from the pulpit, yet I haven't been able to find much negative news about this evil brew.
It turns out that it's not really a beer at all. Technically, yes it is beer. Functionally, not even close. What they've really done is make a sipping cognac out of beer. At $150 a bottle, even the Mothers Against Drunk Driving doesn't have a problem with Utopias, and they are quoted as such in the original press coverage.
In chapter 8 of Tom Wanek's new book, "Currencies That Buy Credibility," he talks about risking your reputation and prestige to buy credibility. In essence, you do something that will cause some of your customers to be repelled while others embrace your brand more tightly than ever.
In the case of the Utopias press, it's a surface-level ploy to seem cutting edge and risky. They want you to be shocked that this is a beer that has been "banned" in 13 states. You should be outraged that it costs $150 a bottle at retail. Yet, when you dig a little deeper…or just blow the marketing dust off the label…you find out that this just doesn't live up to the hype. It's just another bottle of expensive sipping hooch for connoisseurs.
So, how could Samuel Adams ACTUALLY risk reputation and prestige?
They'd have to do something that would actually enrage the MADD crowd. They could put out a beer that's both strong, cheap and easy to guzzle…something that would attract the high school drinker as well as the street bum. They need a beer that would get them written up in BumWine.com for the hallucinatory side-effects of the dangerous secret ingredients.
Give that one a try, Sam.