MAY 28, 2007
Mountain Man Brewing Company: Bringing the Brand to Light
It was February 20, 2006, in the New River coal region of West Virginia. Chris Prangel, a recent MBA graduate, had returned home a year earlier to manage the marketing operations of the Mountain Man Beer Company (MMBC), a family-owned business he stood to inherit in five years, when his father, Oscar Prangel, the president and owner, retired. Mountain Man brewed one beer, Mountain Man Lager, also known as “West Virginia’s beer.” Due to changes in beer drinkers’ preferences, the company was now experiencing declining sales for the first time in the company’s history. In response, Chris wanted to launch Mountain Man Light, a “light beer” formulation of Mountain Man Lager, in the hope of attracting younger drinkers to the brand. Over the previous six years, light beer sales in the United States had been growing at a compound annual rate of 4%, while traditional premium beer sales had declined annually by the same percentage. Earlier that day, Chris met with a regional advertising agency about a marketing campaign to launch Mountain Man Light. Back in his office, he watched an agency videotape from a focus group. He observed a half-dozen participants, 21 to 55 years old, showing various reactions to proposals to extend the Mountain Man brand to a new light beer product. • • A man in his fifties leaned into the facilitator and declared, “Mountain Man Light? Come on, I’m not interested in light beer. Just don’t mess with Mountain Man Lager.” A man in his early thirties, dressed in jeans and a camouflage shirt, stared at a mock advertisement and shouted, “Fancy barbecue parties, with puppies running around…. What do they have to do with Mountain Man?” A man, in his mid-twenties and fashionably-dressed, said, “Sounds pretty corporate… I think the beer is too strong for me anyway. I’ll leave it to these guys to drink.” A woman in her early twenties wearing low-rise jeans and a trendy T-shirt commented, “Mountain Man is kind of ‘retro cool.’ I like light beer and Miller Lite is so passé. I would definitely try Mountain Man Light.”
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Heide Abelli prepared this case solely as a basis for class discussion, and not as an endorsement, a source of primary data, or an illustration of effective or ineffective management. Heide Abelli is a former consultant with the Monitor Group, a strategy consulting firm based in Cambridge, MA, where she consulted to a variety of consumer products companies on marketing issues. The author thanks the following executives from the brewing Industry; their help was indispensable in refining the case: Brent Ryan of Newport Storm, Rob Schimony of Yuengling & Son, and Charlie Storey of Harpoon Brewery. This case, though based on real events, is fictionalized, and any resemblance to actual persons or entities is coincidental. There are occasional references to actual companies in the narration. Copyright © 2007 Harvard Business School Publishing. To order copies or request permission to reproduce materials, call 1-800-545-7685, write Harvard Business Publishing, Boston, MA 02163, or go to http://www.hbsp.harvard.edu. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, used in a spreadsheet, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise—without the permission of Harvard Business Publishing. Harvard Business Publishing is an affiliate of Harvard Business School..
2069 | Mountain Man Brewing Company: Bringing the Brand to Light
Chris switched off the videotape and glanced up at a photograph of his father with a group of rugged, middle-aged men from the Coal Miner’s Union. Although Chris firmly believed that the window of opportunity for introducing Mountain Man Light was closing, Oscar had warned, “Look at what...