This is one of those times.
There are times when words fail, even a mouthy blogger.
This is one of those times.
You know things are pretty bad when ads built on election-year craziness get yanked two weeks ahead of the election.
Tens of millions of dollars were wasted on this epic lapse of sound marketing judgment. Yet before the "Bud Light Party" goes deservedly--if belatedly--into the trash can, it's worth looking to see what we can learn from this disaster. And there is definitely a lesson here about how not to sell beer.
Take another look at these ads with an eye toward answering this simple question: Do they dramatize anything--anything at all--about... the beer?
Not... a... thing.
Nothing about how the beer tastes. Nothing about its ingredients. Nothing about how the beer is made. Nothing about why people like it. Nothing about why you should choose this particular brand for your party. Nothing at all to suggest Bud Light is in any way distinctive, special, unique... desirable. So, why would anyone expect ads that don't sell anything distinctive about the beer... to sell beer?
Since this is the second Bud Light ad campaign in a row to focus on empty entertainment instead of distinctive substance, you have to wonder how supposedly smart, even brilliant people could repeat the same costly mistake. How can they see the brand they're responsible for--the largest beer brand in the country--keep losing ground, and still choose advertising that conveys nothing distinctive about the beer?
Highly regarded ABInbev ceo, Carlos Brito, once called this Bud Light effort "revolutionary new creative." In fact, it was neither new nor revolutionary. And it wasn't particularly creative.
Seduced by how easy it seems
Sadly, we have seen all this many times before. Slick ad guys lure gullible beer-business executives into buying entertainment-based "big ideas" that don't sell any beer.
Got a big brand that needs a boost? Don't worry about the challenging work of crafting a brand-distinctiveness-based strategy. The ad hipsters have an easier answer: Sign a comedian (or two), or some very hot rock group for your beer brand, and just let these entertainers do what they do. "Your brand will be so relevant! Just imagine the social-media frenzy!" The more popular the entertainers, the funnier the comedian's schtick, the more effective your ad will be, say these charlatans. Of course they'll include your brand's cans and bottles in the ads, but mostly as props for the celebrity talent.
The truly crazy part? It never sells beer.
Having made the very same costly advertising mistake now twice in a row, you'd think the odds Bud Light's marketing brain trust would do so yet again are pretty low, right?
OMG, not again?!?
After killing the "Bud Light Party," the brewery's short-term advertising answer is more of the "Lady Gaga Dive-Bar Tour"...
Did you learn anything at all... about the beer?
~Our record, for the record~
Since the "Bud Light Party" campaign was launched less than a year ago, we have consistently pointed out its critical weakness.
- In February, when the teaser ads appeared, we worried the new campaign would be as disappointing as the one it replaced.
- Later that month, when Heineken aired its new ads, which have since resulted in getting that brand back to growth, we contrasted the strategic substance of the Heineken ads with the Bud Light's empty entertainment.
- In April we again contrasted Bud Light's failure to establish any claim to its beer's distinctiveness, with a brand that does just the opposite.
- Still frustrated in July, we asked, "Why does Bud Light refuse to sell beer?"
- In August, we compared Bud Light's ads from the eighties with what we called their current "loser" campaign.
- And just a few weeks ago, we noted ironically that Bud Light had finally stumbled upon a distinctiveness-based ad.
* Note: Certain video links may not function in emailed articles.
Dan Fox is a real beer guy.