How Asahi Super Dry is competing with the thirst for craft beer

Lindsay Bennett
By Lindsay Bennett | 13 November 2018

The days where Australians drank Victoria Bitter on mass and pints of XXXX Gold aren't quite over, but younger drinkers are looking elsewhere for their drop of choice.

The boom of craft breweries has resulted in Australian beer drinkers moving away from corporate giants in favour of smaller brewers. On average, one small brewery has opened each week for the past two years, according to industry figures. So what does this mean for premium brands like Asahi Super Dry? 

For Michael Edmonds, GM of marketing at Asahi, it has meant moving the approach for Asahi Super Dry away from the "grass to grain" product shot to create a more emotional connection with consumers. 

To do so, he appointed The Monkeys, which he previously worked with in his role as GM of global marketing at MLA, who had recently hired Clemenger trio - Paul McMillan, Ant Keogh and Michael Derepas -  who have credentials on beer brands, previously working on Carlton Draught.

The Monkeys didn't disappoint, last week revealing their first work on the account with a dramatic ode to Japanese film and culture. The ad takes the viewer into a dystopian world where technology and traditional collide with scenes featuring a giant squid, robot geishas, fierce warriors and loyal salary men.

Through early testing, Edmonds said the ad was resonating strongly with younger beer drinkers - a demographic that is increasingly shifting to craft beers.

"We have seen big growth in craft beer and contemporary beer and brands like Asahi have to compete within that market, which is why we needed to create emotional resonance, particularly with the millennial audience who can be pretty fickle and have a large consideration," he said.

Another challenge for the brand, which it hopes to overcome with this campaign, is maintaining its premium brand image at a time where other brands are prepared to discount their product, Edmonds explained.

Asahi Super Dry began its transition towards emotional advertising in 2017, with its 'Uncover the Night campaign'. While it was a stark contrast to the functional message Asahi Super Dry pushed in 2015, with its 'Above all Else' campaign, Edmonds said he knew the brand had to "continue to evolve".

"This campaign is a significant step forward for Asahi," said Edmonds.

"Grain to glass ads still have their place, because there is a role for advertising like that, but we know that in the world so full of clutter, we really need to have creative power to break through. I saw the power of emotion work successfuly at MLA and that's been a tradition for that brand which has proceeded me."

Moving away from the functional message was a test to the Asahi brand with its Japanese counterparts hesitant to back this type of advertising. Edmond admitted it was difficult to get across the line, however, following some tweaks to the ad, it may now roll out in Japan later this year.

Asahi has typically had a lower presence in the Australian market compared to its corporate competitors, such as CUB brands. Edmonds said the 'Enter Asahi' brand platform is "just the beginning", indicating an increase in marketing spend for the brand.

The campaign will roll out across outdoor, TV and digital video this summer with Edmonds also reviewing Asahi's sponsorship investment.

It's a common gripe in advertising that beer ads have become safe with ads like Toohey's Extra Dry tongue spot a distant memory. Edmonds acknowledges that perhaps some brands have moved back to safer advertising, with Pure Blonde pushing a functional message, but believes Asahi brands like Peroni, which works with TBWA Melbourne, and Asahi Super Dry have the ability to buck the trend.

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