(For decades before the mid-twentieth century, the realm of beer brewing and consumption was widely perceived as being by and for men. Such conventions changed rapidly beginning in the years immediately after Prohibition, when sales of packaged beer - for home consumption - began to outpace those of draft product in the tavern setting.
Brewers in Cincinnati and elsewhere quickly were obliged to change the traditional male-centered focus upon beer marketing, well aware that the woman represented the primary shopper in the household - and the most likely purchaser of bottled and canned beer in local grocery stores. Most breweries changed quickly with the times, but in the case of one Greater Cincinnati operation, not until well into the 1950s were female consumers courted in earnest, and somewhat awkwardly in the process.)
Post-Prohibition changes in the local and national brewing industry extended beyond manufacturing and distribution concerns, to the marketing of beer to real and potential consumers. As intensified competition led brewers to explore new sales options, the female consumer became a prized target for increased market share plans, and necessitated a change from traditional packaging and promotional campaigns. By the 1950s, the newfound power of the woman in the beer market no longer in question, brewers around the country were obliged to investigate new ways to reach women in advertising, including one Cincinnati-area brewery which had exhibited an open and longstanding focus on the male consumer.
During the pre-Prohibition era brewers in Cincinnati and
elsewhere regarded the consumption of beer largely as a male activity. On selected occasions
beer was marketed as being for family use, with the woman often regarded as secondary -
physically and otherwise - as a consumer of fine lager, a point made evident in an October
1877 advertisement from one northern Kentucky brewer:
Such advertising campaigns were softened early in the twentieth century, with growing efforts by the brewing industry to combat prohibition legislation and the realization that women represented an increasingly large percentage of packaged beer purchases. For the remainder of the pre-Prohibition period, women were depicted with greater regularity in brewery publicity campaigns, particularly in visual advertisements which stressed the social nature of beer, at picnics and other friendly gatherings.
The increased importance of women as purchasers of malt beverages was made evident early in the post-Prohibition era, though the focus on various occasions was less on drinking the product than on its other potential uses. In an effort to promote the multipurpose function of beer in the kitchen, brewers targeted women with advertisements, publications such as cookbooks, and programming which provided recipes for cooking with beer. Despite a strongly male readership, the Cincinnati-based union organ The Brewery Worker published recipes for meals cooked with beer on a regular basis in the mid- to late 1930s. By January 1935 almost 200 radio stations throughout the country broadcasted a weekly free beer recipe service offered by the Modern Science Institute of Toledo; forty-four of the forty-eight states maintained at least one station which broadcast the beer recipes, including Cincinnati stations WFBE and WSAI and nearby Covington broadcaster WCKY.
Still others saw the increased importance of women as drinkers of beer, including a number of women who spoke out on their role in the future of the brewing industry. Under the premise that “in the main the future of the beer industry lies in the hands of American women,” one woman opined in a Cincinnati publication that the female gender would exert a necessary moral influence upon post-Prohibition beer consumption patterns:
[The woman of the house] is decidedly weary and sickened of drunken
parties in her home; of setting doubtful example which sons and daughters followed; of
frequenting the shady speakeasy where life only seemed merry and often proved to be exceedingly
loose in morals and dangerously broad-minded. ...
The author also expressed a train of thought which became more apparent to the brewing industry over time, namely that the promotional message espoused by the brewers would have to conform to the ideals, interests, and activities of the American woman, if their support was to be gained at the point of purchase:
Wherever we lay the blame for the evils of prohibition, the fact remains
that right now there is a lot of feminine fur to be smoothed down. And it is a perfect
opportunity for the brewer to tell her his story of good fellowship, moderation, temperance
and decency. ...
Well aware of the trend away from the public drinking establishment in favor of home consumption—and no less mindful of the role of the woman as the primary shopper of the household—brewers nationwide sought to incorporate women in advertising campaigns, with images of the woman at the market purchasing their product, placing it in a well-stocked kitchen, and socializing with others over a tall glass of the beer. With greater frequency into the 1940s and 1950s, a female presence began to augment—if not replace—men in beer advertisements, both as purchasers and consumers of the product. Cincinnati brewers changed with the times as did others around the country, but by virtue of its existing advertising message the adjustments made by one local producer gathered more attention than the rest.
During the early post-Prohibition period the Bavarian Brewing Company positioned its flagship brand, Bavarian’s Old Style Beer, squarely as a masculine product, brewed for men and to be consumed by men in traditional circles. Well into the 1950s Bavarian’s was advertised prominently as “A Man’s Beer!” in countless newsprint publications; on billboards; point-of-sale advertisements; locally-broadcast television and radio shows—with a substantial female viewership—such as Favorite Story and Midwestern Hayride; and public signs, placed in locations as prominent as above the left field wall at Crosley Field. Variations on the male-centered advertising theme also were frequent, and included catch phrases such as “Man, it satisfies!”
Yet Bavarian proved no less vulnerable than its industry rivals to changing demographics in mid-twentieth-century beer marketing. Faced with increased regional competition in addition to new gender-based concerns, the company instituted subtle but noteworthy changes in its method of advertising. Careful to tread a fine line between loyal male consumers and potential female purchasers, Bavarian maintained the “Man’s Beer” slogan which found widespread recognition and favor among male consumers, but added explicit copy references which acknowledged female participation in the choice of beer for the home. One such example, which ran in local newspapers during mid-1954, provided a weather forecast with the projected temperature for the day, and reference to Bavarian’s Old Style as the appropriate cold beverage to relieve summertime heat. Invariably the body of the advertisement began with an appeal to both genders and a subtle play upon the male/female relationship in the home:
Man ... and Ma’am! There’s just no better way to cool off than sipping through a creamy-cold collar of Bavarian’s Old Style. For down underneath Bavarian’s foamy crest you’ll find crisp, real beer character married to satisfying smoothness. It’s the perfect taste combination that makes this MAN’S BEER a favorite of the ladies, too!
Another example from the period touched upon a similar theme, with the woman of the house portrayed as the hostess but also as a primary consumer of the beer:
Wise wife! She knows the sure way to please her man’s thirst is with
A MAN’S BEER—the one beer she always pours for herself, too!
Product quality remained a primary focus of Bavarian advertising during the mid-1950s, but with greater frequency also reached out to female consumers who no longer were viewed by male executives as unwilling to consider, or even incapable of determining, the superior attributes of the Covington brew:
Brewed to a man’s taste ... every delectable drop. Yes sir!—that’s
Bavarian’s Old Style Beer. But take a look—it’s the favorite of the fair sex too. The plain
fact is, Bavarian’s [is] a really good beer. It has that old time character (brewed the same
for 65 years and more) ... that hearty yet mild brew taste that really satisfies a thirst.
Yet perhaps the strongest indication of the change in advertising focus by Bavarian during the 1950s came in the form of a grocery store point-of-purchase sign, designed to attract women to the Old Style label. Prominently placed on the small plastic sign was the product name and the ubiquitous “Man’s Beer” slogan, followed immediately by the phrase “... and Hers too!.” For good measure a decidedly unmasculine symbol, a miniature flower box with multicolored fake blooms, adorned the lower right corner of the display, and gave the sign—and by extension the product—a pronounced and, for Bavarian at least, previously unheard of feminine appeal.