In April, news broke that two iconic alcohol brands were joining forces to create a remarkable new beer: Jim Beam Budweiser Copper Lager. Fruit of the joint labor is now available for consumption:

The unique combination doesn’t appear destined to fall flat, as in the early days since launch, it seems to be attracting even self-professed “craft beer snobs,” which is probably the point for Bud.

When iconic brands come together in a co-branding arrangement, it’s interesting to note visual manifestations of the joint trademark use guidelines, a peek into who’s steering the Clydesdales.

Not surprisingly, the reigns of the Clydesdales appear most closely held by Budweiser, as the Copper Lager is beer, not whiskey, and BUDWEISER is the largest wording on the packaging.

That said, the Jim Beam brand name and logo does adorn the six pack carton’s front face with top line prominence, suggesting the brand power it brings to the party – liquid version of Intel Inside?

Figuratively though, not literally, as the Copper Lager isn’t a boilermaker beer cocktail, instead the Jim Beam name and logo indicates aging of the lager on genuine Jim Beam bourbon barrel staves.

One of the things the packaging does well, from a trademark perspective, is keeping the visual identities of the brands separate and distinct, as they appear together in this joint branding effort.

It’s really not a good idea, from a trademark perspective, to mix and blend the combined brands into a single new visual identity, as doing so raises questions of ownership and how to untangle.

So, the packaging does a nice job of keeping each sides trademark elements physically separable while communicating why Budweiser invited Jim Beam to team up for this Copper Lager party.

The trademark filings tell stories too. The only filings currently on the USPTO database that contain the terms Copper and Lager in a mark are owned by Budweiser parent, Anheuser-Busch.

So, Anheuser-Busch views the Copper Lager name to be part of the Budweiser Copper Lager and Budweiser Reserve Copper Lager trademarks, but it disclaims exclusive rights in Copper Lager.

What we don’t know (yet) from the disclaimers, is whether Copper Lager is descriptive (capable of being owned as a trademark element), or generic (you know, meaning zero trademark rights).

If Copper Lager is not a category of beer (i.e., generic and incapable of trademark status), and instead descriptive, since this isn’t Anheuser-Busch’s first such rodeo: acquired distinctiveness?

Either way, this joint effort does appear to be Jim Beam’s first rodeo when it comes to beer, as evidenced by the intent-to-use Jim Beam trademark application it filed in April 2018 for beer.

Thankfully these brand owners are sophisticated enough not to combine Jim Beam and Budweiser into a single trademark filing, sadly I’ve seen commingling before, and it isn’t much fun to unwind.

What do you think, is this joint effort a remarkable one? Is it likely to last, stand the test of time?

—David Mitchel, Norton Mitchel Marketing

Budweiser, the self-proclaimed King of Beers, announced a marketing initiative this week to broaden its appeal to drinkers ages 21-30. Although Budweiser is an immensely popular global brand, it has had difficulty in the United States market in recent years. In the US, Budweiser sales volume was down 9% in 2009 and it appears the brand is on track to lose about 9% again in 2010. As a means of comparison, the whole US beer market fell 2% in 2009. In 1988, Budweiser had a 26% share of the beer market in the USA. Today, Budweiser only has a 9.3% share. In particular, Budweiser is most concerned about its lack of popularity amongst young drinkers. According to its own data, 4 out of 10 drinkers in their mid 20s have never tried the beer. These factors make now a quality time for the Budweiser brand to revitalize. However, based on the plans that Budweiser has divulged, I do not believe that they will be effective in changing the perception of the brand amongst young adults and generating greater market share.

Budweiser’s marketing initiative will begin in earnest with “Budweiser National Happy Hour” on Wednesday, September 29. Free samples of Budweiser will be available at various bars across the nation. The logistics of this plan already have been criticized in the mass media. While criticism of logistics is certainly valid from a brand management perspective, it does not take into consideration the larger strategic flaws in the plan. Free sampling can be a way to build brand awareness and develop positive brand beliefs. However, marketing is a mix of elements and all elements of the mix must work harmoniously together for success. In the case of Budweiser, this will not occur.

Besides the National Happy Hour event, Budweiser plans to promote the brand through their Facebook presence and video advertising, much of it on television. They are taking a multi channel promotional approach, which is positive. Budweiser will use its Facebook page to give free beers to those celebrating a birthday (22nd birthday and up) and display photo albums of those celebrating with Budweiser on their birthday. A quick visit to Budweiser’s Facebook page shows that Budweiser isn’t likely to impress most of the young audience. Their primary profile picture displays 2 Budweiser bottles on ice and the slogan of this campaign “Grab Some Buds”. The imagery is nothing new, which is disappointing because a key component to revitalizing a brand is repositioning. Using imagery that places Budweiser in a new context would be a welcome change. Also, the slogan for this campaign is “Grab Some Buds”. There is nothing memorable about this slogan. It is about as boring as it gets. Meanwhile, the first video ad is available both on Budweiser’s home page and the Facebook page. This video ad is likely to be perceived as rather stale by young adults because it uses undifferentiated imagery. It will not break through the clutter, which is the goal of all advertising.

Continue Reading Budweiser: Not The King of Generation Y