Case | HBS Case Collection | September 1991 (Revised December 1991)

G. Heileman Brewing Co. (A): Power Failure At PowerMaster

by Stephen A. Greyser

Abstract

In June 1991, Heileman announced plans to introduce a high-alcohol malt liquor under the name PowerMaster (PM). Although the company claimed PM would be positioned as an upscale product and marketed on the basis of its superior taste, minority advocates and alcohol foes quickly assailed the company for targeting lower-income, inner-city black consumers. In the wake of protests, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF), which had previously approved the PM product, initiated a review of PM and several other high-alcohol malt liquor products that BATF considered to be in violation of federal law prohibiting brewers from stating or even implying the alcohol content of their products. Shortly after, BATF requested that Heileman remove the word "power" from PM's label. Heileman cancelled plans to launch the product. The case encompasses both target marketing and ethical issues. Illustrates a problem faced by many American brewers: How can these companies increase beer sales in a slow-growing, increasingly saturated market, which is completely dominated by the Anheuser-Busch companies?

Keywords: Advertising Campaigns; Ethics; Lawfulness; Brands and Branding; Product Positioning; Demand and Consumers; Market Entry and Exit; Food and Beverage Industry;

Citation:

Greyser, Stephen A. "G. Heileman Brewing Co. (A): Power Failure At PowerMaster." Harvard Business School Case 592-017, September 1991. (Revised December 1991.)