Natural Light taps into nostalgia with its new can design
The new cans of Natural Light will soon look a lot like the old ones.
Drinkers will soon notice a retro-inspired makeover that mirrors the budget beer brand’s 1979 design, complete with retro logo, crest and colors. It’s part of a larger campaign to mature the identity of beer, which is synonymous with college-age drinkers.
“There were a lot of conversations about how ‘what’s old is now what’s cool’, so we wanted to go back to our archives, so that the can itself is reminiscent of late ’90s design. 1970,” said Krystyn Stowe, Marketing Manager for Natural Light.
When the retro design was tested a few years ago in North Carolina and South Carolina, the response was “completely out of this world,” Stowe exclusively told CNN. The beer had the “best sales rate we’ve seen in years”, compared to its current silver, red and blue brand, which has been in use for more than a decade.
After an “incredibly successful” run, it was “the next natural step to take this look nationally,” she said. Drinkers will see the permanent redesign of its cans, bottles and cardboard packaging starting in early February.
Turning to nostalgia is a constant trend in food, drink and even technology.
Founded in 1977, Natural Light is experiencing its own midlife crisis. Budget beer sales are below their 2020 highs, when consumers stocked up at the start of the pandemic. Today, consumers are buying more and more premium brands or Mexican lagers.
That leaves cheaper brands in a tough spot.
“Although inflation is likely to impact consumer behavior across alcohol categories, drinkers are more likely to cut back on their alcohol consumption entirely than to switch to a lower tier brand or a cheaper category,” Olson said.
Budget beer sales in the United States fell about 8% in 2022, following a 5% decline in 2021, according to IWSR Drinks Market Analysis. Sales of Natural Light remained “flat,” Stowe said, but noted that “we definitely have room to grow.”
For Natural Light to do that, the Anheuser-Busch (BUD)-owned brand is “expanding its openness,” Stowe said. “Traditionally, people think of us as college beer – and we graduate.”
“What we’ve realized is that it’s not just people of legal drinking age who drink our beer, but up to their 30s and 40s,” Stowe said. “We’re not walking away from the university, but now welcoming a whole new cohort that has always been around, but that we haven’t given the attention or time it deserves.”
According to Olson, Natural Light’s pivot to older drinkers is the result of alcohol brands targeting young drinkers who seek flavorful creations found in ready-to-drink cocktails or low-calorie beers, like Michelob Ultra.
“Natural Light’s decision might be to try to go in the opposite direction and reach the less competitive older adult audience,” she said.
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