–Debbie Laskey, MBA
In May, Anheuser-Busch made news when it announced that it would change the name of its most famous brand from Budweiser to America. So, from late-May to November, in every liquor store, convenience store, gas station kiosk, discount warehouse, and supermarket, people will be saying something strange: “I’ll take a six-pack of America.”
According to Money Magazine, “All 12-ounce cans and bottles of Budweiser will feature the word “America” on their labels, instead of Budweiser, in the brand’s distinctive cursive font. The temporary label swap, which will be in effect from May 23 through the presidential election in November, is meant to inspire drinkers to celebrate America and Budweiser’s shared values of freedom and authenticity. The new cans and bottles will also feature lyrics from “The Star Spangled Banner” and “America the Beautiful.” A picture of the Statue of Liberty will appear on Budweiser’s 16 and 25 ounce cans as well as its 16-oz. bottles.”
The name and packaging changes should not come as such a surprise. Jorn Socquet, U.S. Marketing Vice President of parent company Anheuser-Busch InBev, explained that the company is simply implementing its summer marketing campaign, which will feature the Olympics, the Fourth of July celebrations, the Copa America soccer tournament that will be played in the United States, and the presidential campaign season. A fact not readily shared, though, is that beer with “America” labels will not be available outside the U.S.
Will there be negative consequences from the name change? Will people think the beer’s taste will change? Remember the New Coke fiasco. Will people think it sounds weird to go into a bar and order a bottle of America? Will the temporary name change create a wave of patriotism to accompany the interest in the presidential campaign season? Certainly, hot dogs, hamburgers, apple pie and bottles featuring “America” labels will create great Instagram posts on July Fourth.
Of course, some Americans may have missed reading about the name change in Adweek, CNN Money, The Atlantic, USA Today, or Fast Company Design. And they may have missed hearing about it on TV or radio news broadcasts. Worse, they may order a Bud and not even notice the new name and other slight differences in the packaging.
Which brings us back to the key question: If your brand changes its name for a limited time, does the new name better capture your brand promise? Does the new name better attract your core audience? Does the new name better reflect a new audience? Above all, what do you want to accomplish with your name change? And from a legal standpoint, is the new name registered as a new trademark? What happens if there is a trademark infringement, since your brand will be reverting back to its original name at some point in the near future? Do you have answers to these questions? They’re only the tip of the name change iceberg.
While this name change generated media buzz, let’s not forget that the presidential campaign season will just become more heated during the hot summer months. Perhaps, the limited time name should have been “Vote in November” rather than “America.” Let’s just hope voters don’t walk into the polls in November carrying bottles of America!