Selling ice to eskimos – Can Lionel Ritchie sell the Tap King?
Australia’s largest brewer Lion has released a new product called the “Tap King” which they claim without too much hyperbole, “is set to revolutionise the way Australians enjoy a beer at home”. The new product is some sort of plastic beer dispensing system which allows beer lovers to “pour their favourite beers in the comfort of their own home” which was apparently something that they couldn’t do previously.
The system is made up of two parts: the first is a permanent dispenser/tap that attaches to the second which is a big plastic bottle filled with beer and pressurised carbon dioxide. The whole thing seems like a lot of fun but somehow seems destined to receive the same fate as the Slap Chop and the Soup Mate Pro. After a brief period of initial interest, people will soon realise that the Tap King is a waste of time – who really needs another useless gadget in their kitchen?
Is Lionel Ritchie enough to sell it?
Useless gadget or not, the Tap King does have one thing going for it: the (faded) star power of Lionel Ritchie. The commercial shows Lionel wringing out the last drops of his fame to sell a product that is essentially a waste of space.
The commercial shows a man searching inside a fridge looking for an unknown object until the distinctive piano chords of Lionel Ritchie’s classic Hello starts to play. The camera cuts to the inside of the fridge and there is a mythical looking Lionel Ritchie dressed in white and playing a similarly white piano. Lionel pours a beer from the Tap King and hands it to the camera before uttering his famous line:
The commercial actually pretty funny and works really well: it made me laugh, piqued my interest, leading me to seek out the Tap King at my local bottle shop and it has had me playing Lionel Ritchie’s classic Hello endlessly on YouTube ever since it came out. While the commercial is absolutely hilarious, I wonder if Lionel Ritchie is enough to make the Tap King successful.
Enhancing the ritual of drinking beer
The Tap King’s major flaw is the beer that is available for it. Upon release the brands that are available are: Toohey’s Extra Dry, James Squire Golden Ale, Toohey’s New, Hahn SuperDry, James Boag’s Premium Lager and XXXX Gold. With the possible exception of James Squire Golden Ale, these beers are all rubbish.
In addition to having a limited supply of generally terrible beers, the Tap King is destined for failure because it is simply an unnecessary product. According to the media release released by Lion “Tap King is borne out of an opportunity we saw to enhance the ritual of drinking beer at home”. I think they are clearly misunderstanding their audience with this statement.
I’m generalising here a bit, but the types of people who drink the beers above aren’t looking to “enhance the ritual of drinking beer at home”. These beers are all tasteless, mass produced rubbish that are generally associated with sporting events. I’m not trying to insult the people who drink these beers, I’m just trying to emphasise that they have already have created their own “rituals” and are not looking to change or improve them.
People who drink a beer such as XXXX would do so in the company of friends, probably while watching a game of Rugby Union and having a barbecue. That is their experience, and having to pour their own beer from some flimsy plastic container isn’t going to improve that experience for them.
Beer snobs – A missed opportunity
The opening selection of beer available for the Tap King represents a missed opportunity. Instead of focusing on targeting the broadest and most profitable demographic like they have, Lion should have instead focused on the demographic that actually cares about beer: beer snobs – or the craft brewing market. These are the people who would actually go out of their way to buy a product that would enhance that beer drinking experience.
While the beer drinking market is falling and companies resort to insulting their clientele, the market for craft beer continues to grow. It is the people who drink these craft beers who are looking to “enhance the ritual of drinking beer at home”. The Tap King system is far too restrictive for this market and is based on an out-dated business model. In order to use the Tap King, consumers have to but the specific cartridges that fit the Tap King. Too bad if you want any variety!
On the other hand, there already exists a product that caters to the craft brewing market, and that is the growler. Growlers are essentially large resealable glass jugs that can be filled with beer. It’s a little bit more complicated than that but essentially they allow consumers to drink draft beer at home and are only limited by the places that are willing to fill up one.
Doomed to failure
Despite having Lionel Ritchie star in the hilarious commercial, the Tap King is unlikely to succeed. While it is a genuinely interesting product and a good idea, the Tap King’s limited selection of available beer and ignorance of the craft beer market will likely doom it to failure. The only hope for the Tap King is to add more diverse and better quality beers to their range, however this is unlikely since there isn’t a decent beer in Lion’s entire catalogue. But if anyone can sell a crappy beer, Lionel Ritchie can – he has done it before.