To Much Gusto: The Failed Schlitz Beer Commercials

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In the 1970s Schlitz beer was the number two beer right behind Budweiser. Today, it’s hard to find.

In advertising and branding evoking emotion is a powerful tool. However, it’s important we evoke the correct emotions.

The Schlitz beer commercials of the late ’70s are a case in point. Struggling to maintain market share Schlitz created a new line of commercials. They’ve come to be known as the Drink Schlitz or I’ll Kill You Campaign.

As you might imagine the outcome wasn’t positive. They literally scared away customers. As a result, people didn’t want to be associated with the brand.

What went wrong?

You want your products or services to solve problems or help people get something they desire. While the intent of these ads was to follow this principle they failed.

Take a minute to watch these two ads then we’ll wrap up with what went wrong. You gotta see what they did to mess this up.

Now I should warn you. These videos are from 1977 so the quality is a little rough.

Schlitz: Wilderness Man & Cougar


Schlitz: Boxer Gusto

As much as we may not want to admit it we make most decisions based on emotion. No, I don’t you say? Well, the research says otherwise.

Customers responded emotionally to these ads. Just not the way the company wanted.

Of course, the ads weren’t meant to be taken seriously. The intent was to encourage their audience to not switch beers. However, people who saw the Schlitz ads unconsciously picked up a negative emotional vibe.

The ad campaign actually caused people to see Schlitz and the people that drank it as frightening. Not the desired result. Schlitz sold less beer. Today the beer is a minor player on the fringes.

What emotional messages are your customers experiencing? What emotions are they picking up when they interact with your business?

Trevor Wilson

Trevor Wilson

Trevor is a love-focused branding specialist helping our team constantly fine-tune our obsessions. He’s a passionate learner and teacher, distilling over 100 industry-related books a year into digestible bits that make Smitten’s client projects more powerful every day.

Want to discuss? We're all ears.

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About This Little Agency: Back in 2007, in a little town on the southern border of Washington State, Trevor and Kama Wilson braved the naysayers saying it was absurd to try to earn their full-time income together online. Despite criticism and even moving into a single car garage for awhile so they could pursue their dream, they worked unearthly hours, studied endlessly, made costly mistakes, and figured out how to make their entire income online. After successfully running 700 websites (and living entirely and well off the profits), they opened Smitten (formerly Peppermint) to use their inborn, honed obsessions for alluring design, captivating content and personable branding to help other business owners get more ❤ too. 

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