The Simpsons is planning to celebrate the screening of its 500th episode by launching Homer Simpson’s favourite beer, Duff, into the UK market via online orders. Will it be successful or will this latest beer innovation prove one step too far for the Simpsons brand?

“Homer no function beer well without” (H. Simpson)

I’m still not sure I’m entirely sold on novelty products. The cynic in me thinks that they are easy cash-ins, with good taste going out of the window in an attempt to capitalise on a brand’s popularity. Too many Christmasses past I have been disappointed by opening a pair of socks which feature a cartoon character’s head on them. Maybe The Simpsons are different: after all, they can hardly be considered a flash in the pan. Surely extending the brand with some well-thought out merchandising is a perfectly acceptable extra revenue stream? The Simpsons has certainly capitalised on its popularity in this sense: one can now buy products ranging from a talking cuckoo clock to inflatable chairs to (ahem) fart noise putty.

But novelty beer innovation?

According to Mintel’s latest beer market research, 58% of men drink lager. As one of these 58%, I hardly consider myself a connoisseur, but I would like to think that I know the difference between a good lager and one that is not up to scratch. My initial instinct when I heard that Duff Beer was being made available was a little sceptical. Can this actually be any good? Well, maybe. It is brewed by a German company (_Brewmasters Gebeauts)_, a country renowned for producing high-quality and often high-strength beers, though in terms of its market appeal, such provenance plays little role for the UK consumers, with just 14% seeing beer being made in a country with a beer-making heritage.

Meanwhile, the 4.7% ABV should have wider appeal, potentially winning over the 26% of users for whom a stronger alcohol content is appealing (see Mintel’s Beer – UK, December 2011 report). Certainly a few bottles of these would have most people talking less sense than many of Moe’s Tavern’s clientele.

Duff Beer can only currently be bought online but its availability on gift sites such as Firebox is a perfect fit for people looking to buy slightly offbeat gifts. The ultimate longevity of the range is likely to depend on whether it delivers on taste. Good quality, irrespective of price, is the most important factor considered when people buy alcohol at 51% (see Mintel’s Beer – UK, December 2011 report). This figure is driven by men and under-35s, groups which are also likely to be fans of the Simpsons and high users of beer, which points to a potential for these consumers to try Duff Beer.

The launch is likely to benefit from the widespread, and deserved, goodwill around the Simpsons brand with online interest seeming reasonably strong. However, if the beer does not successfully deliver on taste, repeat purchases will be few and its prospects may go flatter than a three hour old pint.

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