Miller Lite Can Claim “More Taste” than Bud Light and Michelob Ultra, Says NAD; Recommends Changes To Its “Know Your Beer” Campaign.

New York, NY – Dec. 20, 2018 – The National Advertising Division has found that MillerCoors provided a reasonable basis for its claim that Miller Lite has “More Taste” than  Bud Light and Michelob Ultra, following a challenge by Anheuser-Busch LLC.  However, NAD recommended the advertiser discontinue certain digital vignettes from its “Know Your Beer” campaign, or modify them to remove statements that suggest that consumers participated in a taste test and made a choice based on a taste preference.

NAD also recommended that the advertiser discontinue the challenged “Know Your Beer” influencer videos and related promotional activities. The challenged claims included:

Express Claims:

  • “7 out of 10” agree that Miller Lite has “more taste” than Bud Light
  • A “majority agree” that Miller Lite has “more taste” than Bud Light.
  • “More taste than Michelob Ultra [And Only One More Calorie].”

Implied Claims:

  • Miller Lite tastes better than Bud Light and/or Michelob Ultra.
  • Beer drinkers have so concluded that Miller Lite tastes better in properly designed and conducted taste tests.
  • Miller Lite has a stronger taste than Bud Light and/or Michelob Ultra.
  • Miller Lite is the better or preferred taste.

Anheuser-Busch took issue with MillerCoors’ claim that “Miller Lite has ‘more taste’ than Bud Light [or Michelob Ultra]” and its “Know Your Beer” campaign messaging.

The advertiser’s “Know Your Beer” campaign included digital vignettes featuring beer consumers who were recruited at various locations to take part in on-camera “taste tests.” These vignettes were shot in areas of the country typically regarded as having strong brand loyalty to the challenger’s Bud Light, such as St. Louis. Consumers are shown tasting two unnamed beers, marked as “A” or “B.” After discussing various attributes of beer such as Color, Taste, and Aroma, the participants indicate which of the two beers (A or B) had more of each attribute—including “more taste”—and ultimately, which beer is “your choice.” Once the identities of the two beers are revealed, the vast majority of consumers express surprise at having chosen the advertiser’s Miller Lite over the challenger’s Bud Light.

The challenger contended that the advertiser’s “more taste” claims and its “Know Your Beer” digital vignettes/influencer videos conveyed the unsupported messages that (1) Miller Lite tastes better than Bud Light and (2) beer drinkers have so concluded in properly designed and conducted taste tests. However, the challenger argued, the inherent ambiguity of the “more taste” claims make it impossible for the advertiser to support all reasonable claims.

The advertiser countered that its general “more taste” claims are based on a comprehensive 2018 taste test carried out by the Institute for Perception, which asked participants a single question: “which of these two products, if either, has more taste?” According to the advertiser, this basic “more taste” claim, is different from the more specific claims associated with its “Know Your Beer” promotional campaign such as “7 out of 10 in STL Agree More Taste than Bud Light.” The advertiser explained that its “Know Your Beer” campaign invited consumers to try two blinded beers side-by-side and to decide for themselves which one has more taste, color, and aroma. According to MillerCoors, this campaign was not a scientific taste test but a fun, promotional campaign.

Further, subsequent to the filing of the instant challenge, MillerCoors informed NAD that it had voluntarily discontinued all claims containing numerical statements based on the “Know Your Beer” data, but argued that the remainder of the claims made in certain digital vignettes associated with this campaign did not require substantiation.

NAD concluded that the advertiser’s 2018 taste test—which specifically instructed participants to focus on “more taste” and not taste preference—used reasonable protocols and provided a reasonable basis for the advertiser’s “Consumers Agree More Taste than Bud Light [Michelob Ultra]” claims. The advertiser’s 2018 testing showed that 65% of participants who tasted Miller Lite and Bud Light chose Miller Lite as having “more” taste, and 70% of those who tasted Miller Lite and Michelob Ultra choose Miller Lite as having “more” taste.

As for the “Know Your Beer” promotional campaign, NAD noted that, while in isolation the participants’ statements might appear to be unquantifiable statements of subjective preference, in the context of the challenged advertisement, their nature is transformed. NAD concluded that when presented as the conclusion of a “taste test” based on three very specific attributes, the participants’ statements convey a message of preference.  However, the “taste tests” in the “Know Your Beer” promotion did not comply with accepted protocol requirements for preference taste testing such as double blinding, a geographically representative sample size, and similarly purchased products. Consequently, NAD found that the data collected during these “taste tests” were insufficiently reliable to support the overall preference message conveyed by the “Know Your Beer” vignettes and influencer videos.

NAD recommended the advertiser either discontinue certain digital vignettes or modify them to remove any statements suggesting that consumers participated in a true taste test and made a choice based on a taste preference. NAD further recommended that the advertiser discontinue the challenged influencer videos featuring the on-camera “Know Your Beer” “taste tests.”

As for the numerical statements based on the results of the advertiser’s “Know Your Beer” campaign (e.g. “7 out of 10 in STL Agree – More Taste than Bud Light”), these voluntarily discontinued claims will be treated, for compliance purposes, as though NAD recommended on the merits that they be discontinued and that the advertiser agreed to comply with NAD’s recommendation.

In its advertiser’s statement, MillerCoors agreed to comply with all aspects of NAD’s decision. MillerCoors stated that it was pleased that NAD concluded that its longstanding “More Taste” claim for Miller Lite was appropriately substantiated and thanked NAD for its careful review.

Note: A recommendation by NAD to modify or discontinue a claim is not a finding of wrongdoing and an advertiser’s voluntary discontinuance or modification of claims should not be construed as an admission of impropriety. It is the policy of NAD not to endorse any company, product, or service. Decisions finding that advertising claims have been substantiated should not be construed as endorsements.