Tusker Lite or Lie?

I have no information on the rational behind the introduction of  Tusker Lite to the Kenyan market at this time after long long rich and successful life,  My lucky guess from the ‘Low Carb’ bit advert in Tuesday’s Daily Nation is they are capitalizing on the health nutrition frenzy that is changing the eating habits of many. I stumbled on the ad in the company of a faithful Tusker consumer, Ogejo who is upset at the brand extension noting that ‘ His’ Tusker Original was the perfect drink that everybody settles for after hoping all over the place. He is still getting used to the new bottle design when the green intruder (Lite) showed up uninvited.

David F. D’Alessandro in his book  Brand Warfare speaks of  Crow Lager, a top beer in the US that extended its brand into the Lite version in an attempt to be relevant to the consumer needs only to end up loosing the market share of the ‘Original’ Crow Lager because of its awful taste. He cautions against risking the credibility of a successful brand by creating an association with a new product of untested appeal and unproven record in the market. Brand extension is what it is popularly refered to as is a gamble that could create favour or loss in value.

He recounts how this very move brought various giant beer brands on their knees as they struggled to maneuver the ever-changing consumer landscape that favored the smaller agile brands.

What then shall become of the Tusker brand? I think  Tusker lite will eat into the the existing market as some of the current Tusker consumers will love the Low Carb version of their favorite drink while the die hard faithfuls will speak ill of the new kid on the block and sabotage the brand claiming that it is diluting the perfect brew. This is an assumption that my avid Tusker buddy Ogejo is not representative of the whole and that EABL did their homework on the ground that warranted this new move.

collage image courtesy of  James Dawe, commissioned by AMV BBDO London

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9 thoughts on “Tusker Lite or Lie?

  1. first of all i know u wudnt know this but tusker is the worst tasting beer ever brewed commercialy that av eva drank 😉 ..pìlsner is on a class of its own.. nway that being said tusker lite is a reactionary measure by eabl against keroche’s ‘sugar free low carb ‘ summit lager that isnt supposed to giv u a hangover ..to me since there exist a vibrant consumer watch that curbs any underhand dealings eabl wil lose its dominance as explained in pt2 brand warfare ..alafu since keroche is repd by a woman tabitha women wil identify wit her bcoz she is mo exposed than all eabl top marketin execs who happen to be women also, the catch bing tabitha owns a brand whyl the others r paid to promote a brand ..that also ties to tusker malt lager export which is also green lyk da lite.. tusker has always bin advertised as the beer of the nation whyl summit is promoted as beer that doesnt giv hangovaz
    eabl is 51% owned by diaegio hence nt kenyan,summit’s slogan z ‘..truly kenyan’ awhyl bak thea was pilsner light it went burst coz pili z a macho brand y they ripit an experiment is beyond mayb arogance of a falling giant

  2. Allan,
    Allow me, in all manner of respect and decorum, and with the utmost sincerity, apply my two-cents knowledge here to impart you my brother some enlightenment….
    I acknowledge that it is your opinion about how tusker tastes and also about its brewing, but I would also like to call your attention to the fact that Tusker has won several international awards, and I quote from the beerclub.com, “Tusker lager is the winner of over 15 ‘Monde Selection Gold Medals’. The Monde Selection is an official institution established by the Belgium Government and checks for the highest quality standards in freshness, flavour and appearance” Noteworthy here is that the gold award is the highest standard a beverage can achieve.
    Not to say that Pilsner has not won any recognition, albeit by the same instution, but Tusker is head and shoulders above all the other brands produced by EABL…only Tusker Malt comes close.

    On the opinion that Tusker lite is a “reactionary measure”, I also beg to differ. EABL is a huge company with pockets full. I doubt it would take them this long to react to Summit. I think that Tusker lite is rather a step towards brand diversity and growth, and would bet that they hope to increase market share by roping in that ‘health consious’ consumer.

    I do agree however that by releasing this new product, EABL are going to most likely shoot themselves in the foor. They have tried these kind of stunts before – remember (Pilsner ice, castle milk stout et-al) and after dismal performances they end up shutting them down.

    Dare I say that Tusker is the most liked brand from EABL, most sold, most distributed, and there is a reason for that….They NEVER mess with the QUALITY of the drink. They might get away with repackaging but they never disturb the status quo of the quality. This has ensured that as a brand it commands the highest loyalty in the market, and if you have had the chance to travel a bit, you will not miss TUSKER anywhere in the country, and in most places abroad. It is commonplace to hear of stories where brothers and sisters from the Diaspora, upon landing at JKIA, head straight to the restaurant and down one, if not several TUSKERS before they can embark on any other homecoming rituals!

    About women identifying with Tabitha, again I find this shallow. The Kenyan consumer is usually not influenced by brand personalities, rather by value for money and quality. I am a habitual perambulator in city joints, and I can count the number of times I have seen women enjoying the Keroche brands, as opposed to the V&A’s. Smirnoff (red and black), Kingfishers, redds et-al.

    Finally I am in agreement that the Diageo ‘stunts’ EABL try to pull in the local market here have and always will fail…

    We are not south Africans. Our drinking habits are influenced by completely different factors, our brand loyalties and allegiances are defined uniquely and our demographics have very different spending capacities from the Tshwanes…again I refer to previous market fails (Castle, hardy’s).

    So as much as EABL are trying some stunts that I am yet to understand, the ‘lite’ project I feel is first and foremeost a defilement of the brand purity and excellence that TUSKER commands, it is an ill-advised and poorly researched strategy (seriously, WHO do they use as focus groups???) and that they are going to mess up their own market prescence, since in my opinion, it is the Tusker Lager drinkers that are most likely going to try Tusker lite, and woe unto the Tusker brand if Lite tastes better…or is just much better in any way….
    That my friend, is my two-cents….

  3. i agree with you tusker has won many awards 2 me that is a plus but u hav 2 agree it startd getin recognition wen diaegio tuk up an interest in eabl in line wit thea vision of bing da worlds largest supplier of alcohol..that fact in itself can be used 2 boost tourism *picture this 4 an ad* a tourist siting on a porch in 1 of the lodges of amboseli(has largest conc of elephants in da world) watching the sunset n a herd of elefants at a waterin hol

    enjoyin a cold tusker to me this aproch is beta than admitin our beer givs u a potbelly but here try thìs new variant that wunt mek u fat.. on da pilsner ice i am not a biochemist so i dont know wat hapens 2 beer if its kept at -2 degrees 4 5days apart from it will b cold p.s pili is 4 a niche market rarely wil u find any1 outside da 18-55 kenyan male demographic in dea ads tusker has had 80% market share they lost 1% 2 summit in its first year
    the mere fact that tabitha is a married mature woman wit kids n even a member of a church womens guild givs her products an edge ..the tusker rebrandin was 2 mek it slender so that it fits in a female hand mo easily whyl also advertising of 0.2% mo alcohol content nways its said vodka is da drink of da gods coz of its clean process but many pipl enjoy brandy although its da dirtiest drink in da world due 2 tha same process reason

    nways 4 me tusker brand has alot of negative historical aspects that most pipl dont care bout e.g tusker was a preserve 4 whites it was illegal 4 an african 2 drink it, u dont want 2 know what police used tusker botls 4 on kikuyu women who they suspectd to be hiding maumau fighters during da emergency ..eabl uses immoral dealings 2 starve off competition.. p.s am yet 2 find a tusker drinker who refutes da superiority of a cold pilsner

  4. great piece, I for one will avoid wearing my cynical hat today and say The Tusker Lite project is well overdue 🙂 I see nothing wrong with extending the Tusker brand name to this “health conscious” alcoholic beverage. It’s common place with all beverage companies to leverage the brand power of the original brand when meeting new needs i.e, Coke Light!

    On the point of the New Tusker brand cannibalizing the original brand, I highly doubt Tusker Lite will gain that kind of traction, it’s a niche beer for a niche market, even if it does cannibalize the original Tusker that’s still a good problem to have since the cash will remain with the EABL family 🙂

    • @john Seno- I agree with the niche market response but like I said before it only holds water if the company has done its homework on the ground and is positive that the move is welcomed by their current customers. I would be careful on the EABL ‘family’ cash approach because it has taken careful thought and execution to grow a powerful brand like Tusker. It would be futile to dilute it with a sister brand as in the case of Fanta Passion. Word has it that Fanta Passion was pulled out of the Kenyan market because its demand and sales rivaled the lead brand- Coca-cola and drowned Fanta Orange in the process.

  5. This conversation is pretty interesting….Brand wars indeed!
    True on the niche market aspect of Tusker lite…There is always a market out there that is untapped or unexplored. But as Luta says in undertone, at what expense? And moreso to the original brand. the case example of Fanta Passion is a very good picture of what risk a superior extension to an existing brand can present.
    I still reiterate that a brand like Tusker has come a very long way and it is not its never dissapointiing quality, but also the legend that it has created over the years. I would be very carefull before I messed with any of that. I am not a marketing guru to predict with any kind of certainity whether Tusker Lite will be a success or failure, but like Seno says, it is a niche product for a niche market and if my stint as a marketer taught me anything, its that if the conditions are right, the matchstick will strike a light. So I guess we just track the progress and see how well or how badly this one goes.

    In other news, todays Standard Newspaper has a FULL PAGE advert of Heineken lager. Now my analysis is, Heinekken has been in the market for at least the last four years, and when they launched it there was reason to pull such adverts, and I would totally understand, again from a marketers erspective, the need to periodically flood the media with adverts in a bid to reaffirm the brand position in the market and assure its loyal consumers, and I would also understand that this being the festive season they need to remind revellers that the product still holds true….BUT coming hot off the heels of the Tusker Lite advertisement, which to me is a MAJOR threat to Heinekken as they are in the same class of beers so to speak, is a reactionary measure by Heinekken, and I can hear the distant thumping of drums as a small “BRAND WAR” approaches…Then again just my two cents (which are increasingly becoming alot in this blog….maybe now they are six cents???)

    • @Kelvin- I love what this forum has become as we look at the big picture. You have a grasp of the beer world. It would be interesting to look back this conversations in March 2012

  6. A few issues from the above comments.
    Tusker is the only beer in the market without a constant taste! Do your rounds of the bars in Kenya and you’ll witness this. It seems like its brewers are in so much of a rush to churn out more Tusker that they are not looking into maintaining its standards. . .

    There also is a major difference in taste when you put a Tusker can next to its bottled counterpart. Could this be due to the fact that the cans are produced out of the country where the standards are higher- because they want to retain the contract? Do the same with a Castle can and bottle or a Heineken Can and bottle. No notable difference in taste

  7. @ Benja, just checking back here and your comment of checking this in March this year….Well, the fad died, and I boast that my predictions were spot on…Tusker lite is just another one on the shelf from EABL, I’d love to see the sales books, coz I’m sure its not doing well as expected. In my few sojourns across the CBD’s famous watering holes, I have noticed that Tusker lite has been taken up by the young upcoming women who do not want to seem so ghetto by drinking mainstream brands like Tusker…I doubt if that is the target market it was intended for…Just like Smirnoff Black Ice, that was intended for men, hence its high alcohol content (7%), but is almost always consumed by young ladies, and has even earned the name “panty remover” for its ability to intoxicate potential chips fungas quickly and effeciently (read cheaply, 4-5 usually does the trick)
    Meanwhile back at the ranch, Tusker still has its strong hold. I have taken strategic positions on bar counters where the waiters order drinks for the patrons, and believe me…Tusker is still sold over and above other brands. Coming a close second is Guiness, then black ice, then Pilsner. New emerging brands like Snapp, Heineken are also slowly creeping into the top of these statistics…Bottom line, nothing comes close to the Elephant!

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