Leading my merry band of ad-agency beer guys working to gain share and volume for Coors, I spent the better part of fifteen years--and the very best part of my career--also aiming to wreak whatever collateral damage I could on Budweiser. (Even with the statute of limitations comfortably past, some of our competitive antics remain forever the stuff of legend and lore.) Volume is not a zero-sum game, but share is. It had to come from somewhere, and there was a special satisfaction in seeing it sourced in the King of Beers. "Heavy is the head...." but I digress.
In those days--the late 80s into the new century-- marketing beer was about as good a gig as there was to be found for an ad guy. Large budgets, many smart, creative people on both the agency and client sides, and a "Beer Wars" zeitgeist that made marketing decisions seem larger than life. Indeed, lots of momentous marketing calls back then were made by men who trusted their gut, men who actually were "larger than life." Brands certainly experienced their ups and down, but Budweiser reigned supreme, no matter how much its self-proclaimed royalty annoyed us. But staying with that metaphor, the crown princes of the time included Miller Lite, Bud Light, Coors Light and Miller Genuine Draft. Together with Budweiser, all premium-priced beers, every one investing tens of millions annually in growing its business. And every one succeeding.
In the marketing equivalent of a beaching of whales, all of those mega-brands--collectively, "big beer"--now find themselves losing volume, gasping for the life-breath of decent-margin revenue from a marketplace environment that seems to have changed without their knowing exactly when, how or why it happened, let alone what to do about it.
So, what prompts me to wade into this whole blog-Twitter-yak-o-sphere now? It's simple: My marketing experience and my life experience both tell me that the big domestic beer brands are oddly important to who we are as Americans in general, and American men in particular. (More about women, down the line.) Or at least they were. Seeing these big-beer brands gasping for air is actually painful to me. As a student of the beer business for over a quarter century, I find myself surveying their whale-beach with a good many questions, a bunch of observations born of my experience, some nascent ideas, and as time goes by, maybe a big-mammal-floating insight or two. We'll see. I know this for sure: If Budweiser dies, some part of each of us will die with it.
In any case, welcome. Feel free to stop back from time to time. To engage in the subject matter. Or just to hang out. And grab a cold one.
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