I’m not a big beer drinker, but like everyone else on the planet, I have seen my fair share of beer commercials. So it was with interest that I noted Coors light has surpassed Miller lite in beer sales and market share for the first time in the U.S. making it number 2 behind Bud lite. How did this happen? I’m sure beer aficionados will argue with this, but Coors and Miller are pretty much the same, as in they kinda sorta taste like beer. So if the product’s the same, what’s the difference? Why the climb in the rankings?

The proudly nerdy* answer is Message Discipline. Put simply, Coors has stuck by its core message since 2005. The architect of this winning consistency is Marty Stock, then the account man on the Coor’s business at Draftfcb. Coors had an identified Audience — the key beer drinker, a product feature that they could own — cold-brewed/rocky mountain cold and a message platform — the silver-bullet train. Then they did what good advertising should do — ground away market share. Contrast this with Coor’s competitor Miller. They’ve had different campaigns, lots of buzz, critical acclaim, some award-winning work and a roster of different agencies during their slide. Coors, and more importantly, staying on message, won.

Message discipline Wins

 This isn’t an isolated case. McDonald’s has been loving it since 2003, while Burger king tripped from having it your way to a creepy stalker king, to standard food porn, to celebrity endorsement, and then back to your way. Nike has been just do‘in it forever, and for De Beers a diamond is forever.

Lessons learned

There’s a lesson here, that applies not just to advertising, but to everyone that relies on messaging and wishes to practice message discipline — business leaders, training organizations, start-ups, sales ops folks, marketing organizations and communications professionals. Stay on message. That’s easier said than done. If your boss says, “I’ve seen that slide before” it’s tough to persuade them that might be a good thing, not a bad thing. If your first thought is “I’ve told them this already” good. Keep doing it. Your second thought “let’s change this” may not be great. Remember Burger King.

There are two tricks that great admen (and ladies) know. Longtime Ad Exec Steve Schildwachter says it best, “it’s not just a matter of discipline, but discipline around the right message.”  Building a message platform that has the right message is as much art and science, and rarely given much thought outside of marketing, but it’s essential for every leader.  The second is to keep the message fresh and interesting without going off message.

*The even nerdier answer is that many Americans are distressed that Miller can’t spell light. But it’s probably not that.

Gavin_Animated-GifGavin is a founding partner at fassforward consulting group. He blogs about PowerPoint, Presenting, Communication and Message Discipline at You can follow him on twitter @powerfulpoint.

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  1. Peter | March 25, 2013 at 9:54 am

    That’s two Monday morning laughs delivered from just one blog post. Great start to the blogging week. I’m kinda sorta agreeing that they kinda sorta taste like beer…. sometimes, and also regrettably realising that I too am distressed by the spelling of light!

    The product flourishes when the message around that product is consistent. I’m now wondering what happens when your product IS a message; such as a blog or column for example. Even relatively narrow subjects can have so many fascinating spin-off directions. Do we damage our brands through intellectual digression?

  2. Gavin | March 25, 2013 at 5:12 pm

    Peter, thanks. I think the trick is to make intellectual digression your brand. I am thinking of trying that. ;-)

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