Sun, Jun 27, 2004 - Page 17 News List

The changing face of Taiwan Beer

The former monopoly Taiwan Tobacco and Liquor Corp now has to fight for local market share and young female representatives dressed in tiny outfits are leading the charge

By Jackie Lin and Jules Quartly  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Gold Medal Taiwan Beer was introduced last April, with a 330ml bottle version of the drink launched around the same time, so that it could compete with foreign beers in the critical pub and club markets.

A lot rests on Gold Medal because it was designed to appeal to younger drinkers and in May this year, 144 young women were hired to promote the beer.

Initially, the girls were sent out to seafood restaurants and small pubs to consolidate TTL's customer base. "This is the first step to produce publicity and create issues for our new product," said Martin Tsai. "The restaurant owners told me when our Taiwan Beer girls are around, their business goes up by 10 percent to 20 percent."

While Taiwan Beer girl Joanne Tsai rushed around a restaurant last weekend near the intersection of Songjiang and Minquan roads in Taipei, a table of publicity representatives from TTL extolled the virtues of Gold Medal.

"It's fresh," the reps kept repeating "and a touch spicy" they offered. "And charming," they continued, "just like our beer girls."

"Most of our customers are families and the betel-nut guys after 10pm," the reps said. "But pubs are the battlefield" they added, explaining that night clubs are where most young people drink. So far, however, Taiwan Beer has not been able to make much of an impression on the pub and club scene.

There are plans to remedy this situation. In addition to Taiwan Beer girls being sent out to fashionable pubs and club, TTL intends to hire young male pop idols as spokesmen for Gold Medal. It also plans to organize several major events in the next few months and has signed on as a co-sponsor of the Ho-Hai-Yan Rock Festival at Fulung beach in Tapei County next month.

A limited-edition set of Gold Medal cans featuring sea monsters and the music festival's logo have been specially produced for the event.

In August, TTL will sponsor an outdoor TV broadcast with further special edition Gold Medal cans for the Athens Olympic Games. Also, cultural events are being organized for Chinese Valentine's Day on Aug. 22.

TTL will also tap into the younger market by introducing new drinks such as alcopops, with mixes of vodka and juice.

Alan Hsia, a part owner of Luxy nighclub in Taipei who has a degree in international marketing, said Taiwan Beer's image was changing but more work needed to be done.

"They haven't called me yet, but I've been waiting. I'd definitely be willing to look into it and support the local brand. They're changing their image really quickly but they need to do more to appeal to our customers.

"They need to go beyond the betel nut rock bands that have been giving them their gravy ... But to change preconceived ideas is difficult and it does take time. The best thing they could do, perhaps, is sponsor a Japanese superstar DJ, to get an edge. It's not too far-fetched."

For Taiwan Beer girls like Joanne Tsai on the front lines, the battle for market dominance rages on. But more will need to be done to fend off foreign competitors -- particularly from China -- and secure the loyalty of Taiwan's future beer drinkers.

Meet Taiwan Beer girl Joanne Tsai

Joanne Tsai (蔡旻微)

Age : 24

Born : Taipei

Career : Joanne graduated last year from National Taipei University in public administration. She has had marketing jobs before, promoting beer and working in restaurants, or as a barmaid. "I guess this job suits a little bit of my personality," she says.

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