hummingbird beer

Remember how in 1987 they tried to pitch Swan Gold as a beer for women? To be fair, Swan Gold – launched in 1978 – was ahead of its time as a mid-strength beer, but female consumers justifiably felt patronised by being offered their own ‘special’ beer. If they didn’t want to drink beer, they’d just drink something else.

You’d think National Distilleries, the company behind the vastly successful Cruiser alcopop brand, would have a better handle on what women might like to drink. But no. They’re having a go at gifting women another ‘special’ beer: Hummingbird Blonde Lager. The reasoning is that this product will keep women aged 25-35 loyal to the Cruiser brand after their palates mature past alcopops.

Here’s the pitch from National Distilleries:

“Australian women drink over 44 million cases of beer a year but there wasn’t one beer made especially for them. Lower in carbohydrates, a smaller 275mL bottle, light and fresh tasting with a hint of citrus – Hummingbird Blonde Lager by Cruiser is something for the girls to enjoy.”

Um, if Australian women drink so much beer, perhaps they already believe beer is made for them? Why would they drink this patronising, bastardised version? In practice, I wonder if it will become a ‘training beer’ for teenagers, because few people like the taste of beer the first time they try it.

It’s dispiriting (pun unintended) to see that despite the ample proof that many women want to feel socially equal to men by using the same consumer products (eg: jeans, cigarettes, bikes), marketers have never got over the notion that all women somehow require their own ‘special’ versions. We even see otherwise gender-neutral products being tinted pink and advertised with a more girly voiceover.

A product like this demeans men’s tastes too, because there is nothing innately female about wanting to drink a low-carb beer (as the booming market in ‘blonde’ beers testifies), a flavoured beer (“lager and lime”, my dad calls them) or a small-sized beer (think of those cute old men in pubs nursing their ‘pony’ glasses). What is sexist about Hummingbird is the way it is pitching its product benefits only to women… sorry, the girls.

And to add insult to injury, they’re pretending to be interested in women’s participation in music. Remember a few months back when triple j’s Hottest 100 Of All Time failed to include any female solo artists or female-fronted bands? Enter our heroic chickybabe beer with the Hummingbird 100. Now you can enmire some of the most outstanding female musicians of all time in a cynical promotion for a product that holds women’s tastes in contempt.