—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.