Big branding news today – Budweiser is going to be changing the name of their beer, literally, to “America.” Pretty much my entire life, even years before I threw back cold ones on a regular basis, I associated Bud with America as that’s just how it always felt. The vibe. The story. America. That was all up until 2008, when Anheuser-Busch merged with a Brazilian brewer and Belgian brewer, and landed its global headquarters in Leuven, Belgium.
I’ve never been able to shake that.
I have always been a big Bud fan – I drank it a lot in college and occasionally fill the fridge with it even now. When I’m not in the mood for craft, it’s always been one of my go-tos. But ever since that massive merger eight years ago, the first thing that always comes to mind when I think of Budweiser is the fact that they technically aren’t even an American company anymore. I mean, yeah, of course Budweiser the brand still is, and they are still in St. Louis, but there’s this essence that now comes to mind whenever I think of this company, that they sold out the one thing that they had above and beyond everyone else. At least, to a consumer (me) that’s how it’s felt.
So over the last few years, with the resurgence of Budweiser advertising seemingly everywhere, or as some call it, “Bud Heavy,” I’ve always kind of rolled my eyes a bit when they keep on pushing the “we are America” or “rugged” or “traditional” concept. You know, the Clydesdales running super hard in the dark, the ads taking direct shots at the booming craft beer industry, real men’s men. I totally get it. Of course they are, they deserve to be – that’s so Budweiser. But I just cannot shake the fact that they are only kind of American now. But maybe I should get over it?
So the idea that they are just going for it all in and literally changing the name of their brand on their actual cans and bottles is… interesting.
But it’s also really smart, from my perspective with my marketing hat back on.
Already today, the day this all got announced, Budweiser and America have both been top trending topics on Twitter, all day. Just about every news, media or advertising publication I read or follow anywhere has an article about it. Normal people like you and me can’t stop talking about it with the “did you see that” question. The PR play alone has been monumental for the brand.
Next comes the actual interaction with the product, the idea of “drinking America” as the joke has already come to be known while we wait for these new cans. Also, people simply purchasing America to save the cans as a keepsake or because they’re just cool and different, similar to when Miller Lite went back to their old cans from back in the day. It made we want to get Miller Lite.
Keep in mind, this is only a temporary thing, to last just through November with the presidential election, so it’s not forever. It’s essentially a limited-time brand stunt that gets people talking, buying and remembering. And when consumers remember you for something deeper than just your product…that’s when behavior starts to change. Budweiser needed to give people a new reason to remember, and it’s not done by bashing the craft beer industry (that their parent company keeps swallowing up by the way).
There will be a lot of jokes making fun of all this. Jokes making fun of Budweiser having a foreign parent company. Jokes about what they will now call Bud Light. Jokes about how this is just stupid and people hate it. But there are others that don’t hate it. Like me.
But from my point of view and based on who Budweiser always was and still wants to be in the eyes and hearts of their consumers, this was the perfect play going into a summer with many reasons to be patriotic (Memorial Day, COPA Soccer Tournament, 4th of July, Olympics, Presidential Election to name a few). It’s risky, but we’re already talking about it like crazy, and anticipating actually seeing it for the first time in the flesh, which is a win for the brand.
This is smart marketing. You might not agree and you might not realize it at the moment, but two months from now when you’re sitting on a deck in a tank top drinking some cold beers and your friend shows up with a case of America and you say “oh look there it is let me see that” … it’s already worked….