Did you know that once upon a time light beer didn’t even exist?
In 1973, Miller launched the first low-calorie beer ever. The advertising slogan “Tastes Great. Less Filling” was born out of the new category of beer called “light.” And Miller Lite the product was produced.
With the official launch of Miller Lite, Miller had a problem on their hands.
How do we create an alternative product offering, based off of a successful product, without cannibalizing the pre-existing brand equity, or making the new sub-brand look weak?
Spurred by incredible copywriting, the “Tastes Great. Less Filling.” slogan was the best of both worlds.
The campaign was developed by the advertising agency McCann-Erickson Worldwide.
“In the prime of the campaign, television commercials typically portrayed a Lite Beer drinker noting its great taste followed by another who observed that it was less filling. This usually led to a parody of Wild West saloon fights in which every patron got involved in the dispute for no real reason, though in this case it was always a shouting match, and blows were never thrown.”
It strengthened the perceived value of flagship product, Miller Beer. While also appealing to an attribute aside from taste and the quality that users had come to expect.
The less filling aspect meant that Miller for the first time ever was diversifying its product offerings and appealing to potential customers they had never marketed to before.
On its face, light beer sounds feminine, or that it is at least “not good enough.” So, how do you combat that?
By bringing in hyper-masculine NFL personalities for dudes to see it is “OK” to drink light beer.
Then-recently retired New York Jets running back Matt Snell was the first person to appear in Miller Lite’s first commercial in 1973.
To attract ‘Joe Sixpack’ to a light beer, the “Less Filling. Tastes Great.” ad campaign started to feature elite ex-athletes know for being rugged, badass, ad against the grain such as Ray Nitschke, Ben Davidson, and Bubba Smith.
Along those same lines the campaign also mixed in some oddball cultural figures; comedian Rodney Dangerfield was also featured in one version of the ad.
The first “Tastes Great. Less Filling.” ad featured John Madden.
During Madden’s first Miller Lite ad in 1981, he couldn’t believe he could become any more famous than he already was, having led the Raiders to a Super Bowl win in January 1977.
“How can more people know me?” an incredulous Madden recalled asking ad people before the first commercial ran, he recalled in a 2016 interview with BroBible.
“Just believe me, they will,” came the reply, Madden said.
And they sure did.
But won’t that alienate the women? Possibly. So what do you do there? You make the entire campaign FUN.
With that protection of silliness rooted in reality, it allowed the campaign to literally “flow” wherever it wanted. It gave the creatives the chance to be creative.
So creative that if you string together the phrase “Tastes Great. Less Filling.” in casual conversation today, anyone 40+ will know exactly what you are referencing. And that’s incredible considering the ad campaign is 50 years old!
So creative, that in 1999, Miller dusted-off the 25-year old formula of having people debate the merits of the brand, Great Taste and Less Filling. The brand felt that the less filling claim had lost its uniqueness as other light beers have entered the market.
As the old saying goes, “The only bad publicity is an obituary.” And this campaign was so good, decades later it still “held water” – with hops in it.
Because the campaign was fun and “lite”-hearted (hardy har har!), it poked fun at itself.
And gave a reason for everyone to be involved in the product. And most importantly, the experience of the brand.