"When you come to a fork in the road, take it," Yogi Berra once said.
When it comes to Super Bowl advertising strategy, Budweiser beer seems to be following his advice. Torn between three different marketing strategies, they're splitting up their Super Bowl commercials among all three, Advertising Age reported yesterday.
The three faces of Budweiser
Budweiser marketers are of two minds as to who their target audience should be, and of a third mind as to how to reach one of those audiences.
One faction in the marketing department argues that the Clydesdale horses are still the way to sell beer. But "[f]or years, internal debate has raged within the brewer's marketing department about just how successful" they are, in the face of a quarter-century of declining sales and market share.
Another side argues "that the Clydesdales 'were more of a goodwill for our corporation but they weren't necessarily selling the brand Budweiser,'" according to a former AB InBev marketing executive. "That philosophy was getting stronger and stronger every year when you have younger groups [of marketers] coming in and saying, I think the Clydesdales are for the older [drinker]," he added.
And while this side sees eye to eye about whom to target (millennial males) they differ on how best to target them – with the borrowed interest of hip-hop music star Jay-Z or by introducing mass-produced "craft" beers.
The GEICO of beers?
Since they can't agree on one strategy, Budweiser's trying all three and, like GEICO, executing three different campaigns for the same brand. Hey, when you have $34.2 million to spend on four-and-a-half minutes of air time, you can afford to.
Face #1: the "craft" brew
Budweiser will figuratively kick off the game's advertising with the first commercial shown – a :30 for "craft" beer Black Crown, which Ad Age characterizes as "a higher-alcohol line extension positioned as a more upscale version of Bud geared toward nighttime drinking occasions." Another Black Crown spot will air later in the game. One of these two "is expected to include a scene of a brewmaster saluting a group of American beer drinkers. The scene seems to be a reference to the brand's genesis as a small-batch, limited-edition beer that was originally made as part of 'Project 12,' in which brewmasters at 12 A-B InBev breweries created their own 'tribute' beers."
AB InBev VP for US marketing Paul Chibe describes Black Crown as a "modern expression" of Budweiser, which Ad Age translates to mean, "the Black Crown positioning appears to be as much -- if not more -- about making it an upscale beer for younger drinkers our [sic] at night."
Face #2: the hip-hop connection
In case craft-like beer won't win over millennials, Budweiser's hoping its partnership with Jay-Z, running in two 60-second commercials from his production company, Translation, will.
Face #3: the time warp
And then there are the Clydesdales. A full :60 will elevate them from bit players to a starring role, chronicling "the bond a Clydesdale foal shares with his trainer" and providing a "new level of access" to the Clydesdales' early years, Budweiser told Ad Age.
"We think that the Clydesdales spot will have special relevance for those people who have seen the Clydesdales and have more of an emotional connection just because of ... their age," Chibe explains. But "that doesn't mean" the Clydesdales spot "from a value standpoint isn't going to work with millennials. Those values are universal and timeless."
Well, I guess you could call 25 straight years of sales slippage kinda timeless.
Splitting the difference can be hazardous to your sales
Splitting one brand's advertising into three different messages for two different audiences can be risky business – especially since, with all three running on the very same broadcast, it's next to impossible to measure what effect each is having in the marketplace.
There's a technical term for marketers who, when faced with clear-cut strategic alternatives, opt for the middle of the road – "road kill."
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