From Milk to Milk Stout – Ernest Dichter. Part I.

Prescience in 1962

Printers’ Ink was a long-running American trade magazine on advertising. Started in the 1880s by New York-based George Rowell, it ended its days finally in 1972, retitled Marketing/Communications.

In 1962 it published a 25-page Special Report on American brewing. Even as it reflects its time, the reportage and analysis are sophisticated, with quality layout and artwork.

One is taken aback at certain moments. Fox Head Brewing in Wisconsin – its beers were entered in 1940s tastings by the Wine and Food Society of New York – planned to sell non-alcohol beer in vending machines. It was also designing a range of fruit-flavoured beers.

A man called Ernest Dichter, head of the Institute of Motivational Research, similarly thought American brewing needed to reimagine beer for an emerging generation (p. 47).

Only 13-15 years later, the venerable but tiny Anchor Brewery in San Francisco, and New Albion Brewing in Sonoma Valley, a ’70s start-up by an ex-Navy homebrewer, released the kind of beers Dichter foresaw would shake up the industry.

For a long time still mass market brewers didn’t want to know, the same posture that caught Dichter’s attention in 1962.

Anchor and New Albion didn’t shape-shift alone. It took many brewers, publicists, writers, and brewing consultants to create today’s brewing world, where full-flavoured styles abound.

It was largely young consumers who responded to their vision, drinking beers for the most part inspired by European originals – validating an outlier analyst in 1962.

Who was Ernest Dichter? His profile at Wikipedia states in part:

Ernest Dichter (14 August 1907 in Vienna – 21 November 1991 in Peekskill, New York) was an American psychologist and marketing expert known as the “father of motivational research.” Dichter pioneered the application of Freudian psychoanalytic concepts and techniques to business — in particular to the study of consumer behavior in the marketplace. Ideas he established were a significant influence on the practices of the advertising industry in the twentieth century.

He held a doctorate from the University of Vienna in psychology, and had done early work in Vienna on milk-buying habits of consumers. A Jewish refugee, he arrived in America in 1938, in the nick of time.

Dichter was profiled in a 2002 film on motivational research, The Century of Self by British filmmaker Kevin Adam Curtis. This clip on YouTube is most informative. Various experts including Dichter are interviewed.

In 2021 mass market brewers still exist, with ever-lighter beer as a staple. But full-flavoured beer is here to stay, in non-stop variety. Some is even made by the craft units of the selfsame large brewers.

Imports too grew considerably over the last 40 years. The Special Report has a section on them also, noting they bettered domestic beer in growth terms. Even in 1962 that was so, in other words.

Finally, one wonders if Dichter’s background in German Mitteleuropa, with its rich brewing tradition, helped shape the insights he conveyed to Printers Ink. I think it had to, Ja.

Part II concludes this look.

Note: source of excerpt above is linked in the text, via Google Books. All intellectual property therein belongs solely to the lawful owner, as applicable. Used for educational and research purposes. All feedback welcomed.


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