Budweiser’s ‘America’ summer campaign didn’t have the impact the beer giant had hoped for.
Two months after the launch of Budweiser’s controversial ‘America’ rebrand, only 11% of adults 21 and over said they would consider buying the brand the next time they buy beer — Budweiser’s lowest figure this year, according to YouGov BrandIndex data released on Wednesday.
When the company announced in May it would be changing Budweiser labels to read “America” through late summer, it seemed like the campaign could be a success. Consumers’ perception of the brand, willingness to purchase, and brand awareness all jumped just as the America bottles and cans hit the shelves in late may.
However, just one week later, perception metrics began to slump in all categories. Unfortunately for Budweiser, there are several weeks left in the campaign, which was intended to run through the Olympics in August and the election in November.
From the start, Budweiser’s America campaign has been controversial, something that may have helped build buzz at first, but which did little to improve brand perception in the long term.
Budweiser has been struggling to attract millennial customers, as the majority of millennials have never tried the brew, instead moving towards wine and craft beers. The campaign, like the similarly American-focused Bud Light Party campaign, was supposed to grab young consumers’ attention with a flourish of patriotism.
Instead, critics called into question Budweiser’s decision to brand itself as “American,” considering the brand is owned by Belgium-based AB InBev.
“Frankly, Budweiser calling itself ‘America’ is the most un-American thing I’ve observed in quite a while,” Will McCameron, president and co-owner of the Greenville, South Carolina microbrewery Brewery 85, wrote in a blog post on craft beer website Brew Studs in July.
Additionally, the “America” campaign came at a time when politics may have left American consumers feeling less than united in their patriotism. This summer’s heated election seems to not be uniting consumers around America (and Budweiser) as Tosh Hall, the creative director at Budweiser’s branding firm, JKR, apparently hoped, but instead highlighting political divisions.
Internet searches regarding moving to Canada have spiked as the election has heated up, with one dating site even launching to match Americans with Canadian partners. While threats to move to Canada are typically empty, such actions may suggest that patriotic American-themed cans — especially from a company outside of America — may not be received as warmly as they could have been.
The Olympics may be enough to bring American consumers together and, at least for a few weeks, make Budweiser’s “America” cans great PR again. But, in a country that’s currently politically divided and eager to spot apparent hypocrisy, replacing “Budweiser” with “America” doesn’t seem to be the millennial marketing breakthrough that AB InBev hoped for.
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