Bill Knight column for Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, June 13, 14 or 15
As Flag Day approaches, one wonders what advertising halfwit thought it would be effective for Anheuser-Busch to re-label its leading brand, Budweiser, “America.”
Is it because the nation is bland? Or is it a nod to the presidential campaign in which “Make America great again” has become a common (if meaningless) slogan?
Since May 23, the beer giant has replaced the Budweiser logo with “America” on 12-oz. cans and bottles, and the gimmick will continue through the November election.
True, the corporation has tried previous ”patriotic” stunts, including merchandising “Statue of Liberty” and flag labels and logo “salutes.”
But – hello? – Anheuser-Busch is no more a U.S. company than the twits that have a headquarters in this country but produce their goods overseas in sweatshops and stash their profits in the Cayman Islands, Panama or other foreign tax havens.
Yes: Anheuser-Busch is now a subsidiary of Anheuser-Busch InBev after the conglomerate InBev took over the St. Louis-headquartered brewery and entertainment company in 2008. InBev – itself a result of a 2004 merger between Belgium-based Interbrew and Brazilian beer company AmBev – is now Earth’s largest brewer and remains based in Leuven, Belgium (although it maintains some versions of Anheuser-Busch’s plants).
In its initial offering, InBev said that the merger wouldn’t result in any U.S. brewery closures and they’d try to retain management and board members from both companies, but it instituted cutbacks across the board. It kept AB’s 12 breweries operating but laid off 1,400 employees and more than 400 contractors, cut pensions, severance, retiree insurance and other benefits.
Also selling AB theme parks, such as SeaWorld, to the Blackstone Group for more than $2 billion, AB InBev by the next year "turned a family-led company that spared little expense into one that is focused intently on cost-cutting and profit margins,” reported the Wall Street Journal.
“It’s brilliant, however shameless,” said Tom Acitelli, author of “The Audacity of Hops: The History of America’s Craft Beer Revolution.”
“Peel back the label a bit, and one discovers the whole thing tastes a bit thin,” he continued. “Watery, soda-pop fizzy and ruthlessly inoffensive – if not slightly alkaline – in flavor, the beer tastes the same wherever it’s made and however far it’s shipped.”
So, maybe some marketing imbecile discarded brain burps like “Red White and Blue Ribbon” for competitive reasons, but went with a less-is-more approach.
However, Anheuser-Busch InBev has many brands of beer, so if this gimmick works, why stop there? Maybe they’ll exploit such promotional goofiness for various other labels, connoting other traits associated with the United States.
Bud Light could become “State Weak.” Busch could be “Hedge.” For its malt liquors, AB InBev might change Cobra to “Garter,” and Hurricane to “Breaking Wind.”
Natural Light? How about “National Fight”? The non-alcoholic O’Doul’s could be “McBland.” Rolling Rock? “Dropping Bombs.” Shock Top could be “Stock Drop.”
And on and on.
Beer drinkers don’t need reminders of the stature of our nation (much less the status of this year’s brutal-yet-inane campaign).
Instead, breweries big and small, domestic and foreign, should adopt a new industry slogan:
“Make beer great again.”