Beer brand Budweiser has taken the concept of news jacking to the extreme by renaming its beer “America” throughout the US election campaign.
The brand will keep the new name until votes are cast in November, with Budweiser vice president Ricardo Marques claiming the switch will make this Northern American summer “maybe the most American summer ever”, according to FastCo Design.
But independent branding expert Michel Hogan is skeptical about the apparent display of patriotism.
“A lot of Budweiser drinkers are really hardcore patriots and the irony is that Budweiser is Belgium,” she tells SmartCompany.
While Budweiser has become a household name with a strong foothold in American culture, it’s a product of Belgium multinational corporation Anheuser-Busch InBev.
“Its’ both hilarious and fascinating,” says Hogan.
“Is it any wonder that customers become cynical about advertising when you have this sort of stunt?”
“Advertising opportunism at it’s finest”
The ‘America’ renaming campaign comes ahead of the country’s highly lucrative summer season for alcoholic beverages.
In previous years, beer sales in the US during the early weeks of July have hit over US$1 billion, making it the highest selling category in the food and beverage sector.
The upcoming Olympics are expected to spike this further.
And with the US election underway, drawing attention to America across the country and around the world, Hogan says Budweiser’s timing is so right, it’s wrong.
“It’s got nothing to do with patriotism, it’s advertising opportunism at it’s finest,” she says.
While the move may be generating awareness, and media coverage, for the brand, Hogan says it brings into question the company’s real values.
“[Budweiser’s] market share is falling but they still have a chunk,” she says.
“They’re getting hammered by craft and microbrewers and all beers from around the world.”
As a mass-produced heritage beer, Hogan believes Budweiser is finding it increasingly challenging to stay competitive and relevant in a fast changing marketplace.
“It’s never a bad thing for an organisation to change and move their position to be relevant in a changing marketplace,” she says.
However, Hogan believes stunts like ‘America’ may expose a company to ridicule than anything positive, especially on social media platforms.
— Eric Steele (@ThatEricSteele) May 10, 2016
— Katrina Jørgensen (@Veribatim) May 10, 2016
— Doctor of Happiness (@AngrierFish) May 10, 2016
Hogan says in some ways, the campaign appears to show the company is in panic mode and fighting to stay front-of-mind while getting “killed by the new guys”.
“The way to address this is to really figure out what you care about and see how it connects with what ‘s happening out there,” she says.
Michelle Gamble from Marketing Angels says while pulling off similar stunts to tie in with national events can be a clever move for smaller businesses if done properly, SMEs should be wary of associating things like patriotism and social culture with products that can cause harm, including alcohol.
“One thing that could come back to bite Budweiser is that it is alcohol,” she tells SmartCompany.
“It’s generally a product that can cause harm to people.”