At something called an "immersion meeting" with selected distributors in New York about a week ago, the Bud Light marketing team had their ad agency "discuss the current (Bud Light Party) creative in great detail." That sounds like a bitch session to us. Regardless, the real bit of news was this statement about where the new Bud Light advertising (think SuperBowl) is heading:
capitalizing off its true nature of
sociability and sessionability.”
But they are very familiar with its meaning.
Nearly three years ago, we were quick to predict the future of the then-new "session beers" coming from the craft brewers. You may want to read exactly what we said about their prospects in 2013, or perhaps just the headline will be sufficient: "Session IPAs are gonna rock."
How could we be so sure of ourselves... and so perfectly accurate in our prediction? Easy. We'd seen it all before. A beer you can drink more of is a time-tested winning idea.
Back in the 60s, Schaefer--"The one beer to have when you're having more than one"--was the first major beer to position itself on "sessionability." It worked, but before very long, a better answer to "drinking more beer" came along in the form of light beers. Their lower alcohol levels meant you could physically consume a greater quantity of beer. It wasn't just sloganeering.
The notion of sessionability--but never the word--inspired the "less filling" claim that launched Miller Lite. Soon after, Coors Light's "Won't slow you down" and Bud Light's unabashedly imitative "Never lets you down" ads worked the same theme. These three brands, and their code-language session claims totally upended the beer business. Light beer became the re-definition of "beer," and full-strength premium brands began their long decline.
Had federal regulators not weighed in to nix the suggestion of multiple-beer consumption, even banning the use of the term "session," light beers would probably still be selling themselves on that theme today.
Two years ago, we spotted the first session-y claims from BigBeer in decades, apparently in response to how successful the craft brewers had been with their openly promoted session ales. (Why the regulators did their about-face on sessionability has never been clear.) Online-only ads appeared for Anheuser-Busch's Natural Light (Natty Light) and generated over 2 million views. These party-hearty ads have since been removed from the internet without explanation, but our analysis is still there, including this question: So has Big Beer simply left session appeals to the little guys?
Last year, we went so far as to suggest how Bud Light could take the claim that Founders All Day brand had managed to get cleared through regulators--"Keep your senses sharp"--link it to partying, and run with it. Some of that article was tongue-in-cheek, but the sessionability-sociability lash-up was not.
How exactly Bud Light will tackle this new direction remains to be seen. Here's what we'll be watching for:
- For full effect, the promised "sessionability" will need to be clearly stated, not just hinted at. As an illustration, Founders "All Day" brand-name choice perfectly demonstrates this. After all, they didn't name it "Once or Twice a Day." Clarity of message is a big reason this brand is one of the hottest craft beers on the market.
- There will need to be a specific beer-related reason offered for why Bud Light in particular lets drinkers "go long." Otherwise, any other light beer would be just as good. (We aren't optimistic here since, from its introduction on, Bud Light has never offered any product distinctiveness in its ads.)
- The promised "sociability" cannot be just another party. "Party" is too shopworn a notion in beer ads to offer much persuasive punch. Remember that the brand's "Whatever" campaign was just one party after another. The real news lies in sessionability, and why Bud Light can claim it.
All that said, we wish Bud Light well. They finally seem to be aiming to establish distinctiveness for their brand.
At least we hope they are.