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Saturday, February 14, 2015

Budweiser: beyond uncool

Several commercials on the Super Bowl broadcast were edgy, among them Budweiser's attempt to ignite interest in its primary brand from Millenials who shun mass-market swill (for which the polite term is macrobrews).

I don't drink much beer of any type. It was never my favorite beverage in or after college, and at this moment there isn't a single beer in my house. Depending on how often I eat out or travel on business, I drink two-to-five beers a month — none of which are Buds or any other A-B InBev product. When I'm at a public place in the U.S., my go-to brands are Dos Equis and Sam Adams amber lagers. Jim Koch, co-founder and 30 years later still the CEO of the Boston Beer Company that makes Sam Adams, deserves a presidential medal for single-handedly saving Americans from swill. When I have a choice of upscale products or I'm in Europe, it's a porter or stout or a dunkel. Among North Carolina beers I enjoy and recommend People's Porter from Winston-Salem.

Consolidation into multinationals is a fact of life with both good and bad consequences. Sometimes multinationals decrease diversity; for example, in most London hotels and restaurants it's difficult to find anything beyond European macrobrews. But other times multinationals increase distribution and hold down prices. If a multinational buys a great beer and leaves the product alone, I'm not too concerned. Heineken owns Dos Equis, and Heineken hasn't screwed it up (yet). The Boston Beer Company remains independent but someday someone will make Koch an offer he can't refuse.

The real question here is product, not ownership. I have absolutely no interest in macrobrews such as Bud, Miller, Coors, or Pabst Blue Ribbon. Apparently neither do most Millenials, aside from the rural South and West. Budweiser is doomed. Resurrecting the tagline This Bud's For You won't cut it. And I'm fine with that.