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To Much Gusto: The Failed Schlitz Beer Commercials

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?

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Trevor Wilson

Trevor Wilson

I love helping business owners who are passionate about making a positive difference in their clients' lives. I'm a passionate learner and teacher. My purpose is to help people live a more fulfilled life. In my professional life, I love helping business owners get clear on their purpose and identity. Then I help them clearly communicate their story so they can attract their ideal clients. I do this because I believe that when you work with your ideal clients you'll live a more fulfilled life.

Successful people do what everyone else won't dare to do. Don't wish it were easier; make yourself better.