It’s no surprise two beer companies would find themselves in a pissing match. Which is exactly the state of play between MillerCoors and A-B InBev, maker of Budweiser. MillerCoors, as well as the craft beer community, are foaming at the mouth over an advertisement that Bud ran during the Super Bowl.
No, not that one. I mean the advert in which Bud proudly proclaimed its American, mass-market roots, perhaps trying to steal a march from Chrysler’s brilliant “Imported from Detroit” spot of a couple of years ago.
“Budweiser Proudly a Macro Beer,” the ad proclaimed, while the visuals highlighted Bud’s industrial brewing capacity. “It’s not brewed to be fussed over,” it went on. You could feel that slap all the way from Seattle to Williamsburg. According to AdAge, MillerCoors released and tweeted an ad of its own headlined “We believe all beers should be fussed over.” The supposed crybaby craft beer types, being creative of course, responded with wicked parodies of the Bud ad. Good for them, although if you put a glass of Bud in the middle of a dozen craft-brewed lagers, there’s a very good chance the craft aficionados wouldn’t know the difference.
It’s about time that Bud sold beer. Both MillerCoors and Bud have been dropping market share for more than a decade to the microbrew onslaught. That’s why they’ve purchased a couple of craft companies themselves—MillerCoors has Blue Moon Brewing, for instance and A-B In Bev bought Blue Point. MillerCoors is upset because the company still sees itself as part of a beer community that includes the craft brands and doesn’t want to irritate drinkers who are potential customers. Once upon a time, Coors was a cool brand, at least until it went national. The company must still think it is.
In its Super Bowl spot, Bud was trying to reassert its brand’s relevance as a true and acceptable choice for beer drinkers. This is what advertising is supposed to do, isn’t it? Buy us, not them. An ad that’s says “Drink our beer, it’s good enough—and we make a lot of it” makes more sense to me than one of Bud’s other ads. Yeah, that one, the one with the stupid lost puppy that everyone went gaga over.
Bud’s lost puppy ad is unbelievably good if you are selling puppies—and every pet shop owner in America should go out a buy a case of Bud as a thank you—but it’s completely meaningless if you are selling beer.
And Bud and MillerCoors have been having a hard time doing that. Consider the BudLight tagline, The Perfect Beer for Whatever Happens. Whatever does that mean? It means that the product isn’t good enough to sell on its merits so you’ve got to come up with something else to sell. With light beer, it’s always been about partying and sex or humor, because let’s face it there’s really not much taste to sell.
A bottle of Bud is still great on a hot summer day but I personally prefer craft beers—cask conditioned traditional ales, to be exact—to our mass market brews. Once upon a time Budweiser was a craft beer, too. Every beer in America was. Bud just happened to beat up the competition up over time, including Pabst Blue Ribbon, a trendy former mass brew that somehow gets a pass.
Why did Bud become No. 1? In part, because it was a better brew; and in part because it was marketed and distributed better than everyone else. This is a company that helped create the modern advertising industry. So I’m raising a glass to Bud for getting back to basics, to blocking and tackling. Let the craft crowd mock and whine all they want. Bud needs to pour it on now, or risk become completely irrelevant in a decade.