anheuser busch inbev

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I wrote yesterday about how beer taps should be used as brand instruments to build fealty, affinity and loyalty.  There was a time when the beer brand was more important than the brewer. As evidenced by my post yesterday, it seems the brewer portfolio has become more important than the individual beer brand – especially in this craft brewing led market.

Anheuser-Busch/InBev, MillerCoors and the other beer holding companies are sharpening their investments by buying craft brewers.  It seems variety is the spice of the balance sheet these days. When I look at a craft brewer, as both a drinker and brander, I ask about the flagship beer.  The one that sets the tone for the brewer.  Typically that’s the label with the highest gross sales. For BluePoint Brewing is it’s Toasted Lager. For Highland Brewing, Gaelic Ale. For Goose Island, it’s namesake Goose IPA. There has to be an alpha brand. And I start from there.

Smart brewery marketers want consumers to order a “Toasted Lager,” “Gaelic Ale” or “Goose IPA.”  They don’t want them to order the mother ship.  As craft brewers get more sophisticated, they will hire brand managers for each label. And then it’s on.



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There’s a cover story in The New York Times today about political referendums. It suggests referendum results favor the sponsoring political party when that party is in favor.  The opposite is also true. The headline of the article suggests referendums are “messy tools” and the recent Brexit vote was used as an example.

I actually think brand referendums are a nice idea – a good way to gauge customer sat and affinity by allowing a vote on product and service changes. Blue Point Brewery just changed the label of its flagship beer, Toasted Lager.  With Blue Point’s purchase by Anheuser Busch InBev, it seems big brother’s marketing engine is getting more involved. I wonder how that will play out?  A simple button on the home page requesting feedback, wouldn’t have hurt.  Along with a comment box.

The marketing road is lettered with changes to products that have passed muster with modest or no research. Brand referendums (on the home page) offer customers a way to engage, feel listened to, and perhaps assist with innovations. And more importantly, gauge how customers feel about the direction of brand management.

Tink about it, as my Norwegian aunt would have said. 




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On Long Island where I live we lost 1,200 grocery store jobs year-over-year. Where did those jobs go?  Costco I am betting — a much more efficient and price-favorable retailer. This is the way of the world, this big box approach. Yet as we know, what goes around comes around and even Amazon is experimenting with brick and mortar retail stores. And big consumer packaged goods companies like General Mills and Campbell’s and even Anheuser-Busch InBev are investing in start-ups and small participants in the craft economy.  The craft economy dabbles in small batch, high-value products with an artisanal bent.

I suspect the craft economy will also result in a resurgence in small specialized retailers popping up in towns again.  In our little town, Crushed Olives opened a year or so ago offering assorted olive oils and balsamic vinegars.  Kilwins is offering specialty fudge. And our second independent coffee barista just opened. They’re premium priced but seem to be worth it. The craft economy will by no means be in every neighborhood. But it’s here for those with a little extra cash who like to savor the flavor.  It is fueled by people tired of selling junky or pedestrian quality products. And there is demand.  The craft economy is a multi-billion dollar category.




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So the Federal Trade Commission can squash the proposed merger of Staples and Office Depot, whose collective asses are being kicked in by Amazon (over the last two years the two office supplies companies have been forced to close nearly 600 stores), but they say it’s okay for Anheuser Busch InBev to rename Budweiser beer “America” for the summer???

Budweiser America

I love America and I love Budweiser, but this idea crosses the branding line for me. Not that I oppose it – let’s see what happens… what the hell. I just think it’s a bit sketchy and too commercializing. It’s also too easy. Also, for those of us who stop and take their hats off whenever we hear the Star Spangled Banner, it may be off-putting and have a negative effect.

America is not a brand. And that’s the point. For the FTC or whomever to allowed this promotion to happen it’s a rookie mistake. Even for a young 240 year old.




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Now I know the economy’s in the shizzer. Anheuser Busch pulled the plug and accepted InBev’s $70 a share bid. They reasoned it was going to be too much work to fight their way out of the beer doldrums. Too bad. Anheuser Busch was a great corporate citizen in this country and will be missed – especially in St. Louis. I can’t wait until Busch Stadium is named after some bank.
Here’s what Anheuser Busch couldn’t do and what Anheuser Busch InBev must do to pay back the incredible debt it’s assuming: It must understand and serve the most profitable beer segments around the world. The first segment it needs to corner is the light beer segment in Spanish speaking countries. Cervecería India, owner of Medalla Light, is doing a great job with this segment marketing a low-cost 11 oz. beer that flows like water in Puerto Rico. A similar beer sold in the U.S. would take off and kick-start the new ABI portfolio giving other up-market segment portfolio managers time to figure out how to increase share of Bass, Stella and the poorly managed “king of beers.” Get to it. Peace!

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