MillerCoors has gone through more than 40 years of advertising and can logo innovation.
Courtesy of MillerCoors
By John Kell
March 23, 2015

Miller Lite isn’t trying to be more than what it is: a 96-calorie beer.

Executives at MillerCoors are confident that rebounding demand for Miller Lite, as reported by Fortune recently, is a sign that the beer is back in favor after decades of stagnation and decline. Shipments have steadily ticked up a few percentage points each week in the second half of 2014, relative to their 52-week average, according to MillerCoors. The gains followed a decision by the company to repackage the beer with label that harkens back to its initial launch in 1975.

Customers immediately embraced the retro-look, which was initially supposed to be a temporary promotion. But now, MillerCoors executives say they intend to stick with the white can and permanently ditch the blue packaging first used in 2001. The blue can looked too much like a soda, MillerCoors executives now say. And until recently, commercials for the beer almost never talked about flavor or taste, instead marketers focused more of their attention on being funny.

“It is not trying to be more than it is,” says MillerCoors CEO Tom Long. “It has the perfect balance of lightness and taste so it’s the perfect beer when you are going to have more than one.”

But for a long time, beer drinkers weren’t convinced. That was partly because of the entry of two competitors: Bud Light and Coors Light (though Coors Light is now a sibling brand controlled by MillerCoors in the U.S.). Miller Lite, insiders say, lost its way.

Ryan Reis, who heads Miller Lite’s day-to-day operations, has been a student of the brand. He says he watched every advertisement Miller Lite ran over the past four decades. He closely studied packaging and label variations throughout that time period.

“I tried to understand what Miller Lite said and what worked,” Reis said. “I came to the conclusion that after trying to contemporize the brand, what needed to be done is Miller Lite needed to go back to storytelling.”

Fortune took a look at seven of the most significant label changes and advertising campaigns that Miller brought to the market since the 1970s.

An earlier version of this story misspelled Britt Dougherty’s name. The story has been corrected.


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