You’re probably wondering why on earth I bothered to take a picture of the table shown to the left. It isn’t a particularly beautiful table, and there is nothing on it to make it more notable. The snacks to the left of the table also aren’t much to write home about – just your generic, tasteless bar snacks. So why did I bother? I bothered because 1664 revives my memories of an amazing summer spent in a small town in France. 1664 happens to be the preferred brand of beer for a lot of my French friends. When I was living in France my American friends and I saw our French friends drink 1664 so often that we figured they must love it. So when we went over to their house one time, we brought a case of 1664 as a hostess gift.
Whoops. Bad choice. Turns out, 1664 was their go-to because it was cheap and easy to procure. When they saw our case that day, they audibly groaned (and then drank it anyway, to be fair). Their reactions made us Americans think of Natty Light, preferred by college students because it is cheap and easy to procure. Seems like their 1664 was our Natty Light. Not preferred because of its amazing qualities, but rather because it got the job done and had some price benefits. What’s the important lesson here? Lesson 1 is that context is key when you think about brands. Brands gain new meanings when they are interpreted by people who are distant from typical conversations about that brand’s products and reputation. My American friends and I had no preconceptions of the 1664 brand and interpreted it within the context of seeing our friends drink it with regularity. We didn’t know anything whatsoever about where it actually fell in the French beer hierarchy. Our French friends, however, were very aware of the brand’s reputation, its marketing, etc. Lesson 2 is that usage does not always correlate to popularity. Just because we saw our friends drink 1664 didn’t mean they enjoyed it. 1664 gained their loyalty through its price points, not its ingredients or the process by which it is brewed.
Like I said before, 1664 always brings a smile to my face because it makes me think of a fantastic summer spent with wonderful people. I see it on U.S. beer menus sometimes and am sure that its “import” label gains it some followers simply due to the idea of it being a novelty. But the best part of this story: fast forward a few years, and my French friends came to visit me in the U.S. They wandered the grocery store aisles with me, looking for some “classically American” snacks and drinks. And what did they buy, then proceed to fall in love with? Natural Light beer. Of course.
Just for kicks, here is another photo from that same day, partly to prove that I don’t only take pictures of benches. I took the following picture about 10 minutes prior to the picture shown above… slightly more attractive, I’d say.