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Opinion: What Bud Light Did Wrong and How To Do it Right

May 22, 2023

Budweiser’s shares have been gradually fizzing out over the last several years and it has been for several reasons, most of which involve culture. 

Who’s The Cool Kid?

There's been a real culture shift that no amount of super bowl ad dollars could overcome. The cool kid of the '80s is not today’s cool kid. The ideals of Gen Z are in stark contrast to those of their parents and grandparents. The “cool” guy in a previous generation might have knocked the books out of another kid’s hands while the cool kid today is a benevolent YouTuber that helps the planet and their community. 

While Budweiser’s traditional burps-out-loud party-guy messaging worked for a while, reality hit the brand as they watched market share gradually erode. They awoke from their long slumber to find themselves surrounded by beanies and microbreweries, realizing they needed to make a move and quickly. 

They were right about needing change, but the problem is that they didn’t see the big picture.

Brand Diplomacy; Generational Consumer Succession Planning

Change is inevitable. All healthy brands must continually monitor the values of their consumer base. The problem for some brands is that they get fixed-sighted on a legacy base and forget all about the upcoming consumer bases. Unless a brand wants to end its life within 40 years or less, it must keep researching current tides of sentiment and values within their markets.

It appears that someone in Budweiser was aware of that, but they didn’t plan with the big picture in mind. Their legacy customers still make up a large portion of their sales, and so you can’t just jump ship midway through. There’s an art and a science behind generational consumer succession that involves honoring the legacy customers while embracing the new base as well. It’s brand diplomacy.

The Subtle Pivot

At Gel, we’ve worked with a number of our clients to do just this. Whether it’s a Hispanic-facing brand honoring the legacy Hispanic consumer while embracing the upcoming acculturated generations, or a mainstream CPG brand bridging generational cultural changes, we’ve developed our own science in subtly and gradually moving a brand; appealing to fresh audiences while still holding the original. 

For more tips on a successful “subtle pivot” check out this article.

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