In this article, Budweiser is quoted as attempting to re-attract the under-30 crowd through the offer of free beer. They even have a catchy slogan: “Grab some Buds.” Perhaps this is meant to evoke a feeling of camaraderie in the consumer. It seems Bud wishes to create some sort of Pavlovian response which tells the drinker that it must be a good time with friends if one is drinking a Bud.
Foolish attempts at image marketing are something I’ve recently discussed at great length with close friends. Granted, these friends share a great number of my opinions, but they’re also very smart and are also members of the under-30 set (for the most part). We’ve come to an interesting consensus.
Those of us in the target age range have basically had the internet at our fingertips for our entire adult lives. Over that time, we have learned to use the internet as an informational resource. Further, we have learned to avoid the pitfalls of sourcing one’s information from the web. As a result of the availability of at least quasi-accurate information, our bullshit meters have gotten a lot more sensitive.
We look for products that appeal to us due to their quality and value, not due to the image their marketing projects. It is this writer’s opinion that this phenomenon stems largely from the fact that looking for such products is far easier than it used to be. I loathe the term “crowd-sourcing”, but it has allowed younger and older folk alike to find the opinions of like-minded people and base their purchasing decisions on those same opinions.
The availability of information also democratizes the marketplace to a higher degree. People need no longer be satisfied with the products thrust in front of them by ad men who work for the highest bidder. Easy information means it’s easy to find alternatives to mass-produced, mass-marketed, low-quality goods.
And so it is with beer. There are few industries that have used the internet more effectively to raise awareness than the craft beer industry. Just look at the Monster Energy fight with Rock Art Brewery a little while back. The beer geeks of the world rose up against a large corporation and beat them back with an e-stick. People are increasingly aware that there is something better than [insert industrial macro-lager here] because it is easier to tell them so and it is easier for them to find out.
Since more people know that there are vastly more flavorful and higher-value alternatives to products like Bud, Bud’s advertising has become increasingly more offensive to the intelligence of the under-30 consumer-with-disposable-income that they’re going after. When people are buying for taste and value, image matters less and less. While the ads are very clever and even enjoyable at times, they have become less effective at driving sales. Yet Budweiser continues to sell an image, rather than a product. And Budweiser market share continues to ebb, because people want to buy something from a producer that cares about what they make.
Nowhere is the difference more palpable than in beer. When one sips an artfully crafted beer such as Victory’s Prima Pils next to something like MGD, there is no contest. The former is clean, spicy, crackery and delightfully bitter. The latter tastes like carbonated urine (or at least what I imagine that would taste like). This comparison is precisely why I think Bud’s free beer “strategy” will ultimately fail.
Offering a free taste of something fundamentally untasty seems like a poor business decision to me. Just because you hand me stale bread for free doesn’t mean I’ll suddenly become hooked on it. I assume that is why Bud needed a snappy title such as “Grab some Buds” in order to sell the “event.” More and more people are finding out that, in terms of advertising and product quality, Bud and its ilk are the McDonald’s of beer. You drink it when you don’t care about flavor or quality. So here’s to Bud’s ad strategy continuing to fall flat on its face. Further, here’s to the internet providing easy self-education and thereby spreading greater consumer intelligence, higher-value products and allowing people to avoid a massive…