The strongest flavors
While time – and presumably, the right creative touch – will tell if AB InBev’s bold strategies will ultimately succeed, it’s safe to say that when it comes to Bud Light, industry watchers are skeptical.
Some see such an array of brands huddled around a broad but fast-falling anchor as a recipe for disaster and interpret the whole thing as some sort of dressed-up excuse to be late to innovations that other companies have pioneered and are leading. still. Seltz’s best sellers — White Claw and Truly — aren’t appendages of existing brands, but new entities founded by Mark Anthony Brands, the parent company of Mike’s Hard Lemonade; and Boston Beer Co., the maker of Sam Adams, respectively. Bud Light’s traditional rivals in light lager – Coors Light and Miller Lite – are notable for pursuing far less than Bud Light when it comes to line extensions, a phenomenon that some attribute to the fact that they have maintained a greater focus close on their core brand propositions.
Steinman notes that closely aligning the seltzer and beer brands as AB InBev and Coors have done for some time, might have come at the expense of its growth potential of this segment more than it did. . Bud Light Seltzer provided “a real boost” to the entire brand in 2021, though Steinman predicts the seltzer category to decline overall this year. “I think a lot of people who gravitated to Seltzer were explicitly rejecting beer, so for some going to a brand of Seltzer beer was heavy lifting. Today, approximately 70% of seltzer water is made up of White Claw and Truly; beer brand seltzer is 20% of the market, maybe,” he said.
Bob Lachky, who spent nearly 20 years (1990-2009) in advertising roles at Anheuser-Busch, joining the brewer directly from the agency behind the “Gimme A Light” campaign, then known as of Needham Harper & Steers, argues that Bud Light line extensions have tended to focus more on shelf visibility than actual consumer trends. Bud Light’s large size allows its line extensions to hit trends with considerable force and speed, but, according to Lachky, this ultimately serves to dilute its parent company’s equity.
“It’s death by a thousand paper cuts,” Lachky said. “When you launch a new product, you jam it down that distributor’s throat – you make him take it…but [distributors and retailers] just take another Bud Light facing the shelf,” he said. “Here’s Bud Light Next. Here’s Bud Light Platinum. And that’s another one-on-one that Bud Light doesn’t get. That’s one more endcap that Bud Light doesn’t get. mark yourself. You killed him by your own flanking strategy out of him.
The idea that too many line extensions damaged Bud Light is a “risk” but also difficult to prove, Ottenstein said. He noted that some liquor brands — like Jack Daniels — have done a lot of expansion without seemingly hurting his capital base.
A hint that at least some of Bud Light’s extensions aren’t just clumsy band-aids on a wounded brand can be seen in the way AB InBev approaches another flagship brand whose flagship is minimally troubled by existential threats: Michelob Ultra. , the low-calorie/low-carb brand that has arguably been the beer industry’s biggest achievement in 20 years. This brand also now comes with flavored versions and seltzers which, when seen alongside their Bud Light siblings, highlight AB InBev’s “premiumization” strategy and the brands’ respective focus on demographics.