Monday’s Wall Street Journal chronicled the implosion of AB InBev’s “flagship” brand, Budweiser. The iconic brand is in a death spiral fueled by management’s failure to confront the yearning of young American beer drinkers for something that tastes a step above the king of no taste beer. The article is a must read for anyone who imagines that even a market leader can stand still. What the story misses is that the new playbook is really a remake of the Old Spice to Red Zone marketing coupe.
Take a look at vintage 1940s/50s baseball photos and the omnipresent BALLANTINE advertising in the background… when was the last time you had a Ballantine? Exactly. So in twenty years will Budweiser go the way of Ballantine? I doubt it.
What the owners of Bud have realized is if they make the beer for everyone then it’s for no one. What the article does not notice is that now they are copying the most successful brand re-launch in the personal care business ever. Just ten years ago Old Spice was a dying P&G brand with demographics that mimicked Bud’s. Strong above 40 year olds and dead in the under 40 market. So in an act of marketing gymnastics enabled by the new world of online focused marketing, they “wrote off” the OVER 30 customers and focused everything on the 12-21 males that are the largest users of anti-perspirants. Using a new more aggressive name of Red Zone and with the marketing push that only P&G could pull off, they skipped a generation and invested in the rising millennials. It was a massive success and then the collateral “damage” was that the men over 30 age used the product to show their youthful aspirations. To keep the older core happy, P&G still offers for wide distribution the “classic” Old Spice product in its original formulation, which if you ride the New York subway, you can smell on the old guys a mile away! Better than the alternative…
So what to expect from the new Bud and its marketing? According to the story, “That means it will not trot out the traditional Budweiser Clydesdale’s for this year’s holiday advertising. It means February’s Super Bowl ads will feature something more current than last year’s Fleetwood Mac. It means less baseball and more raves with DJ group Cash Cash,” and watch them take over Major League Soccer. The best part of attending a soccer match such as the Red Bulls is the pleasantly delicious assortment of great brews compared to the “suds” sold at Yankee stadium… They’ll figure that out sooner than later.
And no matter whether you sell deodorants or beer, note this demographic nugget….”AB InBev looks at 20-somethings as a new market to tap. The number of people turning 21 peaked in 2013 at around 4.6 million. They represent the largest number of new drinkers since the Baby Boom, according to the National Beer Wholesalers Association.”
4.6 million new millenials in each age cohort available to buy your product. That Bud’s for all of us!