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Lite Beer and the Segmentation of America

Lite Beer - Flickr Creative Commons

I am not a beer drinker. An neither were any of my parents. My father only really liked one brand in fact and rarely drink that much. I think this is a plus since Finnish people are more likely to go overboard on alcohol than most.

I did find this analysis by Kevin Horrigan in the Stl Today site on how we had a become segmented society all thanks to – not Wall Street – but Madison Av. That’s right the marketing people.

Before there was Lite Beer, there was just beer. There were a lot of different brands, but it was mostly the same: 12-ounce cans of lager or pilsner containing roughly 150 calories. You had to go far out of your way to find something different, like a Heineken or a Guinness.

One nation, one beer. Everyone watched the same TV shows and got their news from (you should pardon the expression) mainstream sources. There were rich people, sure, but they hadn’t yet begun to suck the marrow out of the middle class. The Vietnam War had been fought by enlisted men and draftees alike.

Then came Lite Beer from Miller, test marketed in Springfield, San Diego and Knoxville, Tenn. It was successful enough that Miller hired the advertising firm McCann-Erickson Worldwide to help roll it out nationwide. Pretty soon the “Tastes Great, Less Filling” campaign was everywhere. America’s common culture was doomed.

First came more light beers. And dark beers. And ice beers. And beer with fruit in it. The natural reaction to all of this terrible beer was craft beers and microbrews.

People no longer listened to rock music. They listened to soft rock, classic rock, metal, funk, punk, alternative rock, Christian rock. They listened to classic country and new country and alt country. They listened to R&B and urban and soul and hip-hop and rap.

Along with talk radio and specialty cable channels and focused news and on and on. We have become a nation of focus groups. It’s no longer “How does it play in Peoria”  but “How does it play in a particular suburb of Peoria, Atlanta, Indianapolis……”.  With data mining of all you do on the internet it has become more so and as Sam Smith points out this has permeated our politics as well. Quoting Sally Quinn of the Washington Post.


On the way home … I suddenly realized that this grotesque event signaled the end of power as we have known it. That dinner — which seemed to have more celebrities, clients and advertisers than journalists and politicians — was the tipping point.
Power in Washington used to be centered on the White House, the Congress, the Cabinet, the diplomatic corps and the journalists. Today, all of those groups depend on money for their very existence. The real power lies with the lobbyists, the money-raisers, the super PACs, the bundlers, the corporations and rich people.


That politicians have become nothing more than something to market. Like Lite Beer and Donuts and iPods. That the era of the states man and wise old men of Washington such as Clark Cliffard have been replaced by sound bites and celebrities.

These same bundlers that Sally refers to are the ones who sliced and diced corporate America and sold if off as pieces parts to the highest bidder on the Wall Street equivalent of ebay.

There was a time when most people were on more or less the same page. Now we are simply adds in some niche magazine to be exploited.   With our politicos merely hollow manikins marketed to us depending on the group involved.

Appearing as one icon to one group and a different icon to another.

Out causes and concerns also neatly managed and marketed as well. Be they environmental,  religious, social, economic or political.   Each with their own focus group.   More consumer than a culture. A Walmart nation with cheesy products and cheesy politicians. Willy Lomans in expensive suits.

Consumption! It’s the new national pastime. Fuck baseball, it’s consumption. The only true lasting American value that’s left – buying things! People spending money they don’t have on things they don’t need – MONEY THEY DON’T HAVE ON THINGS THEY DON’T NEED – so they can max out their credit cards and spend the rest of their lives paying 18% interest on something that cost 12.50! And they didn’t like it when they got it home anyway! – George Carlin

And we have bought it hook, line and sinker and have been sold up the river in the process.

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