The original Anheuser-Busch considered itself a quintessentially American company, and it many ways it was. Run by the same family for generations from their mansions in St. Louis, Missouri, in the heartland of America, it was easy for the German-American Busch family to position Budweiser as the ultimate American beer. And they rarely shied away from making such associations. From early on, the Budweiser label was red, white and blue and they used that to their advantage on numerous occasions. During my lifetime, countless times their advertising played on that patriotism, using patriotic iconography in their POS and marketing.
But I imagine this latest campaign may be going a little too far for many people. They filed, and received, label approval on April 11, 2016 from the TTB with application OMB No. 1513-0020 for a new label. That new label will try to rebrand the new Anheuser-Busch InBev, no longer an American company with international roots in Brazil and Belgium, as “America.” No, seriously, they’re actually going to call Budweiser “America,” at least for the summer. According to AdAge:
A-B InBev on Tuesday, May 10, confirmed the limited-edition label change, saying “America” would replace “Budweiser” on the front of 12-oz. cans and bottles. The packaging will run from May 23 through election season in November, the brewer stated. The agency that handled the design change is Jones Knowles Ritchie, New York. The packaging will be accompanied by a summer-long campaign called “America is in Your Hands.” A national TV spot featuring the cans and bottles will premiere on June 1.
And it’s not just that title, the new label is riddled with patriotic associations. It’s an amazing piece of propaganda, and not in any way subtle.
Will this work? Can the international conglomerate poised to swallow up SABMiller — who’s already the world’s largest beer company — be able to convince Americans that they’re still your blue collar friend? That they’re still America’s beer? It feels like a tough sell, but if I’ve learned anything in my five decades consuming advertising it’s that people are incredibly gullible. Many people don’t care who owns Budweiser. Many people don’t care, or perhaps even know, that Budweiser is owned by a ginormous international conglomerate. They’ve been Bud drinkers as long as they can remember, and they have too many other things they care more about than thinking about what beer they’re drinking. I think because we live in such a beer bubble that we sometimes forget that most people don’t care about the industry as deeply as we do.
It seems like ABI has become far more aggressive lately in how they’re trying to position their brand. Part of that seems like desperation at their shrinking market, but being the world’s 25th most valuable brand, worth an estimated $22.3 billion alone (never mind the rest of the company), still makes them the 800-pound gorilla. And that sort of size would make anyone aggressive, with no one else remotely close to their size. I’m certainly curious to see this play out. Will there be a backlash? My guess is no. They’ll be some fiery condemnations on the interwebs, perhaps a few stories on television, and then it will die down. Bud drinkers will just continue drinking their beer of choice. And I’m willing to bet at least a few won’t even notice the change. It will certainly appeal to a certain jingoist bent that many Americans are prone to, the people who believe America is always number one in everything, and anybody who says differently is a commie; the same people who used to say “America, love it or leave it.”
ABI released a statement today entitled “Budweiser Emblazons America On Cans And Bottles To Kick Off Its Most Patriotic Summer Ever” with the details on their new ad campaign.
America’s No. 1 full-flavored lager is taking its longstanding tradition of patriotic packaging even further this summer by replacing “Budweiser” with “America” on the front of its 12-oz. cans and bottles. The brand is also modifying Budweiser’s iconic label to add copy that is central to American history, including phrases from the Pledge of Allegiance and lyrics from “The Star Spangled Banner” and “America the Beautiful.” On shelves nationwide from May 23 through the election in November, these cans and bottles aim to inspire drinkers to celebrate America and Budweiser’s shared values of freedom and authenticity.
Designed in partnership with Jones Knowles Ritchie New York, Budweiser’s bold new look serves as the focal point for its summer-long campaign—“America is in Your Hands”—which reminds people from sea to shining sea to embrace the optimism upon which the country was first built. The “America” cans and bottles will star in the brand’s new national TV spot, premiering June 1.
“We are embarking on what should be the most patriotic summer that this generation has ever seen, with Copa America Centenario being held on U.S. soil for the first time, Team USA competing at the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games,” said Ricardo Marques, vice president, Budweiser. “Budweiser has always strived to embody America in a bottle, and we’re honored to salute this great nation where our beer has been passionately brewed for the past 140 years.”
The “America is in Your Hands” campaign will come to life this summer during culturally relevant moments where Budweiser will be present, including Fourth of July celebrations, the Copa America Centenario soccer tournament, the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, and events to celebrate the brand’s six Team Budweiser athletes competing to appear in the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The campaign will include billboards, murals, digital content, and retail activations along with additional surprises to be revealed throughout the summer.
Budweiser is also unveiling new cans and bottles featuring a magnified view of the Statue of Liberty’s torch, inspired by Team Budweiser, the brand’s six Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls. On shelves from May 23 through mid-September, the “Torch” packaging will be available in 16-oz. and 25-oz. cans, along with 16-oz. aluminum bottles.
Is this the new face of American beer? I suspect not, but only time will tell how many Americans will fall for it.