Category Archives: History

Authentic Beer Marketing

I recently read an article concerning contemporary beer marketing in the “West” in relation to myths of authenticity.

O’Neill, C. et al. 2014. “Advertising real beer: Authenticity claims beyond truth and falsity”, European Journal of Cultural Studies 17 (5), 585–601.

Abstract: It is a mainstay in the literature on consumer culture that the romantic, countercultural value of authenticity has become a core asset in mainstream marketing. Since there is little research on the particular ways in which commodities are endowed with auras of authenticity, this study analyses registers of authenticity in 153 beer commercials from eight countries. The content analysis distinguishes four strategies of authentication: beer is related to pre-industrial craftsmanship, naturalness, concrete locations and historical roots. Surprisingly, however, such claims are often openly exposed by the advertisers themselves as mass-produced illusions. It is concluded that the appeal of authenticity in consumer culture should not be explained by the fact that people actually believe in the ‘authenticity hoax’. Quite the contrary, the acknowledgement that narratives about a more authentic world are myths provides an alibi for consumers to fully indulge in their meaning without the risk of making naive and dupable fools of themselves.

It’s a good piece and worth checking out – unfortunately it is in an academic journal with a paywall. The main reason I bring this article up is because the authors created a YouTube playlist containing each of the ads they analyse in order of mention. This is valuable curatorship for those interested in beer advertising in developed beer markets. Here’s the link.

Elegy to Cigarette

An excerpt from a satirical Guangdonghua love poem named “Elegy to Cigarette” and shared by folk in South China during the American boycott of 1905. This was a general protest against the United States’ exclusion of Chinese labourers.

You are really down and out
American cigarette.
Look at you down and out.
I think back to the way you used to be
In those days when you were flying high.
Who would have rejected you?
Everyone loved you
Saying you were better than silver dollars
Because your taste overwhelms people
And is even better than opium.
Inhaling it makes people’s mouths water.
We’ve had a relationship
In which up to now there has been no problem.
I thought our love affair would remain
Unchanged until earth and sky collapsed.

Ah cigarette,
You have the word American in your trademark for everyone to see
So I must give you up along with my bicycle.
Our love affair
Today must end.

Cigarette please don’t harbor resentment.
Perhaps a time might come when we meet again,
But it must be after Americans abrogate the treaty.
Then as before I shall be able to fondle you.

A romantic, ironic tragedy to be sure! The forbidden fondling of American cancer crutches. There’s a whole novel in that.

Excerpt from Lang, Che. 1960. “Tiao yin-chai”, in A, Ting (Ed.). A collection of Anti-American literature relating to the exclusion of Chinese labourers. Peking.

Beer “As We Like It”

It astounds me that this “educational” 1950s film by the U.S. Brewers’ Foundation has racked up only 700 views on YouTube. You would think the retro-heads would love it and beer fiends in particular would be lauding it as somewhat of a cheesy precursor to the ridiculous How Beer Saved the World. Alas, As We Like It is yet to find its 2015 audience. Tied into McCarthyism and all the other rubbish of that time, it claims that if you’re against beer, you’re simply unAmerican.

Gracious living. Self-government. Freedom … That’s the way we Americans like it.

“Gracious living” is repeated several times. It supposedly refers to some kind of utopia where everyone drinks beer happily in friendliness, cleanliness and in observance of the law. Wow, sign me up. Do not however sign me up to be a publican in 1950s U.S.A.:

Being a good citizen is the fifth principle of good tavern operation.”

Yes, it lists in detail the other four principles. One includes being involved in cancer research. Aspirational or descriptive? Hmm.