Thursday, July 8, 2010

Blast from an obscure past: Carib Light

By now, we are all no doubt acquainted with the new Carib Brewery offering: Carib Pilsner Light. And the very slick press, radio and television advertising campaign that seeks to position it as somewhat of an enlightened choice - an aspirational choice to be enjoyed by the privileged few but ideal for the tastebuds of the dispirited many.

But few may recall that this is not Carib's first salvo into the world of niche products such as a 'light' beer. Now turn your clocks back to 1988 and a T&T that was broken in spirit and (very often) 'broken to tief'.

Times were hard then and the marketing minds at the brewery for some reason thought that the downtrodden would actually rise to the challenge of consuming more to get the same 'buzz' - especially given that so many were shiftless at that time. A light beer would be a god-send to those who had the need to waste away their days with their bellies pulled up to the counter of their favorite rum-shop.

With very little fanfare and the consumer credibility of a 'fart in a mitten', Carib launched Carib Light in 1988 and in support there was this ad:

At $2.25 today, this would be a winning proposition. But bear in mind that a bottle of regular beer retailed at $1.99 back then. In the minds of the consumer, he was being asked to spend more to consume less alcohol. And in a value conscious environment such as this one, that could never work.

Similarly, I tend to recall that there were issues with the taste of the product and more specifically an aftertaste that made imbibing this as pointless as 'Decaf' coffee.

Lastly, and in hindsight, I am of the view that they got the branding all wrong too. From the choice of the 'brown bottle' to the sea-foam green and yellow label to the understated presence of the Carib logo to the bad positioning - this should be a case study for all would-be marketers. The lesson: be careful how you diversify because some niches are just not worth it. Be careful how you stretch your brand because the negative connotations that come with one line-extension could do a dis-service to the originating brand.

So far, it would appear that Carib has gotten things right this time around with Carib Pilsner Light. Not only does the product taste great but the campaign is strong all round and the packaging is impeccable. Kudos Carib! Now if only we could get them to bring back that $2.25 price tag?

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