“Offensive in a good way” is how Tony Ponturo, vice-president of global media, sports and entertainment marketing for Anheuser-Busch, sees their strategy for advertising and marketing in 2008. By that he means they “can’t just be defensive in buying assets.” Although I’m pretty sure that’s exactly what every big beer company did once sponsorship of events, leagues, teams, etc. proved a lucrative way to get one’s brand name out there. So welcome to the new model? Doubtful, reading the Brandweek article on A-B’s marketing and advertising plans for 2008, I’m not exactly bowled over by novelty and a fresh approach.
At least we’ll see less new products this year. Of course, it would be hard to match the “80 new products and line extensions” of 2007. Executive V-P Bob Lachky, claiming A-B has “become smarter marketers,” listed only a few of the new product rollouts for this year.
- Chelada (Bud-plus-Clamato)
- LandShark Lager
- Michelob fruit-flavored extensions
- Shock Top (a Belgian white ale)
- Wild Blue (a blueberry-flavored beer)
Hmm, none of those sound particularly promising, and I think I’ve already tried at least a couple of them (meaning only that they can’t be altogether new). And I love this bit of ad-speak.
But beer still has plenty of untapped white space, said Marlene Coulis, vp-consumer insights and innovations. Brews coming this year will likely be flavor extensions of existing brands.
“Untapped white space,” now there’s a phrase for you. I’ll be sure to work that into my lexicon this year somehow. It’s just too deliciously jargon-esque not to.
More from the Brandweek piece:
Call it a spin, but A-B is shedding its reliance on growth through distribution and pure image marketing that targets 21-27-year-old males. It has to. Bud and Bud Light have more than 90% distribution in big markets. To grow, A-B has to keep its core drinkers and attract “explorers”—people who seek variety in beverages. A-B also needs new products to win drinkers who reject the existing lineup.
To woo the uninitiated, A-B launched “the great American lager,” from DDB, New York [an ad agency —J], during January bowl games rather than wait for the Super Bowl. The Bud campaign cites product attributes like beechwood aging and seven-step brewing. [Those must be the embarrassing Rob Riggle (from the Daily Show) spots that I’ve been seeing. —J]
“The explorer group has never been talked to like this,” said Keith Levy, vp-brand management. “If we can reach them about what Bud stands for, we can grow.”
Still, the category’s penchant for advertising image in a bottle is not dead. “Image with a reason for being is powerful,” said Lachky. “We’re talking about the product more, and we understand better what the consumer needs are today. Image-only ads and attack ads are only sufficient within the category because our category is competing with wine and liquor.”
That’s why the advertising spend for Bud and Bud Light will increase by $70 million in 2008; cable and digital buys will at least double. Media spend for both brands was $219 million January-October 2007, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus. A-B will also seek more “cross platform” opportunities, as with the “Dude” campaign, which began online around Thanksgiving before jumping to TV a few weeks later.
Does any of that sound very different from what they’ve been doing for years and years? Not to me, and also not to Jim Morris who writes a consumer advertising blog, Advertising for Peanuts, who said in a recent post titled Beating Dead Clydesdales:
The recent history of Budweiser is strewn with carnage left in the wake of their fatal inability to leave a one-shot alone—frogs, whassupers, and now the eternal parade of the dude-utterers. Even when this brand does come across an idea with legs, they spot an ant and imagine a millipede, as has been the case with their long ago worn out “Real men of genius” radio campaign.
I realize that a good beer advertising idea is a rare and precious thing, seldom seen in these parts, but isn’t that all the more reason to nurture and protect it and respect its boundaries, rather than exploiting, devaluing and demeaning it until any memory of its original brilliance is eclipsed by the slagheap of its strained successors?
With the Super Bowl around the corner (Go Packers!), and the writer’s strike still going, advertisers are ponying up record amounts for 30-second spots during the big game. Prices this year are 15% more expensive than last year, as compared to being only 4% higher last year over the previous Super Bowl. A-B has reportedly bought 10 spots for its various brands. Let’s see how many of those are different from the usual fare.