If you watch sports on TV, beer advertising cannot be avoided. Mostly entertaining, some more than others. Once in a while, those of us in marketing question whether the ads are effective, as in do they help move product. Dos Equis and “The World’s Most Interesting Man” was a good example of success in this field.

Today we read about the other side, as Bud Light recorded its first full-year decline is sales. Consumerist picked up on it in August, and this week Ad Age got into the details…

Shortly after August Busch IV was named CEO of Anheuser-Busch, he accepted a company director’s recommendation for a consulting firm that would assist with managing the brewer’s burgeoning brand portfolio.

The firm, Cambridge Group, ended up going far beyond portfolio management. In fact, its exhaustive research resulted in the “Drinkability” campaign that — four years and millions in fees later — is considered a major factor in Bud Light posting the first full-year sales decline in its history.

The “Drinkability” debacle, however, resonates beyond A-B, as agencies increasingly chafe under the growing influence of consultants. Marketers are under pressure to justify their budgets, and CMOs, skating on ever-thinner ice, are trying to bring a more scientific approach to a discipline traditionally heavily reliant on gut calls. The degree to which these consultants’ recommendations and findings can translate directly into creative is becoming a familiar frustration for agencies.

Excellent report, with typically good comments.

Very few of today’s effort can rival the effectiveness of “Miller Time” or “This Bud’s For You.” And who doesn’t remember “Tastes Great, Less Filling?” I look forward to getting “drinkability” off the air…


Pabst Blue Ribbon!

Pabst Blue Ribbon is just regular American beer. So why are sales up 25%? Because it’s hip; college kids drink it. And I’m not surprised. The news, via Ad Age:

The answer, wholesalers and beer-marketing experts said, is likely found in marketing activity that occurred long before the current recession. Back in 2004, Pabst executed a highly effective word-of-mouth campaign that made the long-declining brand an “ironic downscale chic” choice for bike messengers and other younger drinkers who viewed the beer as a statement of non-mainstream taste. PBR sales surged by nearly 17% that year, and have climbed at single-digit rates since, until this year, when the recession sent its sales soaring as more drinkers were pushed into the subpremium category.

Think of it as conspicuous downscale consumption, or something like it.

“There’s still a bit of hipness to it,” said Benj Steinman, editor of Beer Marketer’s Insights. “Of all the subpremiums, it’s got a little more cache.”

“It’s an anti-establishment badge,” added a major market wholesaler. “It seems to play to the retro, nonconformist crowd pretty well.”

I’ve seen it myself: people in their 20’s like this beer. Might be rubbing off on others now. In fact, I might try it myself this weekend. $25 for a case of Heineken at the local Costco is a bit much. Time to reset my beer budget.

When I first noticed PBR was hip, I thought it might — MIGHT — have been sparked by its being featured in David Lynch’s 1986 film “Blue Velvet.” That’s good product placement…

Iron City Rocks

Iron City beer is going down all over Pittsburgh today, after one of the best Super Bowls ever.

Although they’ve got some manufacturing problems to fix, they’ve been around since 1861 and they know their customers. Take their special packaging for hunting season: a camo box. On the back, a shooting target (note the “drink responsibly” line below). The marketing folks at Pittsburgh Brewing know their customer and how they take their hunting seriously.

That’s what I call target marketing.