Smoke, Mirrors, and Miller Lite

Tastes great. Less filling.

Times were different back in 1973 (says the 20-something). “Love Train” was chugging its way to the top of the charts, the Watergate Scandal was in full swing and the world of suds was forever changed by the introduction of its first light pilsner: Miller Lite.

Early advertisements for the brew typically involved sports icons or bars full of people in chanting matches over whether the beer’s best quality was that it “TASTES GREAT” or that it was “LESS FILLING” than traditional beers. What’s interesting to note is that in the olden days 70s, the implication of being “less filling” was that it allowed you to physically drink more, which is not exactly something you’d see sandwiched between today’s health food and weight loss commercials. Surely such a message could never resonate with a contemporary audience.


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The Brand Evolution

Almost two decades into the 21st century, Miller Lite still totes the same time-tested benefits. But in today’s world, great taste is proven by details about the brewing process — likely a result of our newfound affinity for craft beers — and less filling is now entwined with fewer calories and smaller waistlines. One commercial even casually presupposes the invention of light beer has led to the cultural shift to healthier lifestyles.

Hold the phone, Miller Lite. The ad does have a point, but is it true to the original spirit of the age-old tagline? Light beer’s initial positioning centered on the fact you could slam it down like nobody’s business, but Miller paints a convincing new story: less filling has been about slimmer bodies the whole time.

Faced with an audience that places ever-increasing emphasis on health and weight, the company could have scrapped the backbone of one of ad history’s most compelling campaigns. Instead, they simply adapted it. They’ve rewritten their own history to embrace a modern message — all without changing a word. And in doing so, they’ve proven that, with a little creativity, a strong message can also be a timeless one.

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