May 11, 2016
Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Millennials
By Lynn Ullman
Yesterday KMOV news asked UPBrand to give an ad agency’s point of view on the new promotional label for Budweiser. The new labels were announced in AdAge and, given the significance of the brand to St. Louis, it seemed worthy of some air time by the news team.
The label looks in every way like the regular Bud can, except the familiar script says “America,” not Budweiser. Look closely and you’ll see that their traditional creed has been replaced with lyrics from Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land.” The words “Budweiser” do not appear at all on the face panel, but are not hard to find. For most, there will be no confusion that this is a 12-ounce can of beechwood aged Budweiser beer. That is, if they care.
The marketing question is, will changing a Budweiser can into an “America” can persuade Millennials to fill their summer coolers with a heavily marketed, mass-produced brew? Since as many as 44% of 20-somethings have never even sipped a straight-up Bud, this audience is undoubtedly the brand team’s bull’s-eye. Encouraging trial is the time-tested first step to increasing sales. Gaining repeat purchases from even a fraction of these consumers would slay the bottom line of this aging giant’s quarterlies.
It’s clear Budweiser has been fighting a tough marketing battle for many years (sales have been trending downward since their peak in 1988). Even so, we found a few trends in their favor. For one thing, more than any other generation, Millennials are a social crowd. And beer is what fuels the fun when they gather. Once more, this is a group with some well-documented financial pressures. $10 for a craft four-pack is okay when you’re only having one or two. But when the occasion calls for the cooler to stay full over a long summer weekend, those beer suitcases on display at Circle K are pretty essential.
It’s in that environment that Budweiser fights its biggest battle for relevancy. And why it’s been described in one article as “a beer without a purpose.”
Back to Bud’s ‘merica position. On the plus side, it’s both disruptive and cheeky–more than a pretty stars-and-bars design would ever be. Even more perfect, it will surely offend Aunt Millie and Fox News, while it earns some free PR.
Yet, in spite of InBev ‘s stated intention “to inspire drinkers to celebrate America and Budweiser's shared values of freedom and authenticity…” the America cans miss the most important Millennial litmus test of all–authenticity. Bullshit meters are redlining on Reddit (and much of spurned St. Louis), with the perceived mockery of a beer, made by a Belgium-based, predatory conglomerate, labeling itself “America.”
Yet, for today, this chestnut brand has succeeded in getting itself talked about–even if it falls flat. The question is whether unleashing a rash of Internet vitriol is worthy of raising our glass.