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Budweiser, politics, and style vs. substance

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Anheuser-Busch InDev wants to sell more Budweiser. That’s because Bud’s market share in the United States has declined for two decades. American shipments fell 7 percent last year. Bud will likely fall from its No. 2 position in best-selling beers as Coors Light speeds past it.

A-B’s corporate response to slowing sales? Repackaging. The corporation has sunk 18 months and untold millions (it won’t say how many) into redesigning the can that contains the same beer. Says A-B executive Rob McCarthy:

The bow tie and the prominence of the bow tie came through both for current drinkers and for potential drinkers as just a powerful symbol of the quality and heritage and authenticity of the brand.

New package. Same beer. New style. Same substance. Well, so what?

If your substance is insufficient to attract attention, then you have a choice: Adopt a new style, or fix the substance. In America, the choice is often the former — in business as well as politics.

Anheuser-Busch’s response to declining sales is to adopt new messaging rather than focus on the taste of the beer. Apparently you can’t mess with the Bud formula.

Consider how this operates in politics. Take what Harry Schuhmacher, editor and publisher of Beer Business Daily, says about the redesign of the Bud can:

It’s bolder and cleaner, representing a packaging trend in many consumer goods. Beer companies typically redesign their labels every five years or so, so it was time to freshen up the packaging to update it to the times.

And now this revision:

Mitt Romney’s image is bolder and cleaner, representing a packaging trend in many political campaigns. Politicians typically redesign their image every five years or so, so it was time to freshen up the packaging to update it to the times.

I’m not picking on Mitt. Pick your politician and use him or her instead.

Now let’s rewrite McCarthy’s promo for the new Bud can design:

The carefully designed visuals and altered messaging that bypass gatekeepers came through both for current voters and for potential voters as just a powerful symbol of the quality and heritage and authenticity of the brand.

As we face a nauseating media diet of mercilessly negative political ads for the next 14 months, remember the new Bud can.

New package. Same beer. New style. Same substance (or, rather, lack of substance).

Demand more than a powerful symbol of the quality and heritage and authenticity of the brand from those who seek to represent us in Congress and the White House. Demand to know the substance behind the brand — if any.

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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

August 4, 2011 at 1:51 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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