On 10 May, Anheuser-Busch InBev announced its latest strategy in fighting off the omnipresent threat of Mexicans and others flooding the US – that is Mexican and craft beer, of course – which have curbed Budweiser’s market relevance and resulted in a 16% volume decline over five years. For the next six glorious months through November, the King of Beers will make a presidential show of patriotism by changing its name to America.
How the stage was set
While the move may have shocked just about everyone, in retrospect the latest string of Budweiser’s marketing efforts make America a predictable next step. After isolating themselves as the United States’ lone macro beer and donning the stars and stripes on their bottles and cans last year, redesigning Budweiser as America may have been AB InBev’s attempt to outdo itself. And while AB-InBev has aligned its “America is in Your Hands” campaign with events like the Copa America Centenario, the National Park Service’s centennial, and the summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, some are asking whether there’s an underlying ironic embrace of the circus that is the 2016 US presidential elections.
Make Budweiser great again?
Irrespective of the motive for timing, America is a very low cost initiative to give Budweiser sales a bump. In a similar vein as Coca-Cola’s successful “Share a Coke” campaign, AB-InBev is looking to reignite consumer interest in a struggling brand without substantially altering its very being. The very worst possible outcome of the name and design change is that Budweiser’s core consumer base will feel as though their patriotism is being mocked. However, in the US where thick-skinned patriotism runs visibly strong, particularly so among loyal Budweiser drinkers, this is most unlikely.
Rather than alienate die-hard consumers, it is far more likely that occasional and infrequent Budweiser consumers will succumb to the temptation of slamming an America for America at least once. This urge will only be magnified by summertime backyard barbecues and the Memorial Day and Independence Day national holidays, a key time for America’s beer consumption. And while some of these potential consumers of America may be turned off by the parallels they see between the brand’s redesign and those of the US political stage, the risk is effectively negligible – there is no cost in losing a consumer you don’t have.
AB-InBev’s goal with America is to stem, and ideally reverse, the brand’s relentless declines. Since 2006, the brand has lost 1 billion litres in sales in the US, reaching but 1.7 billion litres sold in 2015. But even a one off success on the outside can’t change Budweiser’s insides, cementing the brand’s long term prospects.