America's first light beer wants people to think of it as "the original social media."

By Mike Pomranz
October 22, 2019
Miller Lite

In its simplest sense, the craft beer revolution means your friends are far more likely to be drinking IPAs and fruited sours instead of just Keystone or Keystone Light. But craft brewing has impacted the beer world in other ways, too. One significant change is the return of the taproom: Small brewers are selling more beer directly out of their own facilities, and in many ways, these taprooms have reinvigorated the social atmosphere of beer, giving beer fans a reason to congregate again.

On other side of the spectrum, Miller Lite certainly isn't a small batch beer that can only be drank in a local taproom, but that doesn't mean that America's third largest brand doesn't understand the importance of beer as a social centerpiece. So Miller Lite has launched its own unconventional campaign hoping to drive people back to congregating around a brew: In an effort to rebrand Miller Lite as "The Original Social Media," America's first light beer will temporarily be going dark on its social media accounts and even offering to buy a Lite for anyone who unfollows them on Facebook or Instagram—reminding people that "a few friends are better than a few thousand followers."

"Today's generation will spend more than five years on social media, and yet our original research showed we aren't very social at all. We commissioned a study that showed that nearly half (49 percent) of 21-27 year olds meet up with their close friends less than a few times a month. And getting beers with your friends at the bar is the original way people met up, hung out, talked, dated, you name it—it's what makes us the original social media," Anup Shah, vice president of the Miller Family of Brands, told me via email. "Whether you think it all started with Facebook, MySpace, or 1990s chatrooms, the point we're making is that before all of those social platforms came into existence, beer has always been a reason for people in the real world to come together, and that sort of socializing beats a status update any day."

That said, one surefire way to get people to meet up for a beer is to give them free beer, so Miller Lite's additional "unfollow us to the bar" campaign is encouraging drinkers in eligible states to text a photo or screenshot showing that they've unfollowed Miller Lite (along with the keyword "UNFOLLOW") to 49375. Miller Lite will send back a link where customers can upload a receipt of a Miller Lite purchase. The brand says it will then send a credit to that customer's PayPal account with the dollar value "dependent on the state you reside in." (Sixteen states don't allow this kind of promotion; 26 offer a full refund up to $8; and everyone else falls somewhere in between.) You can find all the details on unfollowmillerlite.com.

"We understand it's risky for a brand today to say that we want you to unfollow us on social media, when it's one of the many ways we stay in touch with beer drinkers," Shah continued. "But we value those in-person connections and are committed to inspiring people to do the same, even if that means losing a few followers along the way."

Of course, similar to the campaign's premise of the importance of engaging in the real world, Miller Lite clearly understands that losing social media followers is far less significant than losing customers in real life. Younger people are reportedly drinking less beer and social media has apparently played a role—even if it's only because drunkenly posting (or being posted) to social media can be problematic. In theory, getting people off social media and back into bars could be good for the beer industry—but whether they're willing to do that for Miller Lite will have to be seen.

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