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By Mehgan Belanger
ST. LOUIS -- Anheuser-Busch (A-B) revealed its 2008 marketing plans for some of its brands here yesterday, at the company's biannual Retail Trade Symposium. At the conference, CSNews Online learned that the company will put its focus on core brands such as Budweiser and Bud Light, along with new products, including Budweiser and Bud Light Chelada.
"We aren't pleased with where we stand," Don Johnson, vice president of national retail sales told attendees. "Our focus is on core brands […] I'm very optimistic with what the future holds." He added later: "We have to get back to the basics of selling beer."
The future of A-B lies in its core brands -- Budweiser, Bud Light and Michelob. It plans to "reacquaint the consumer with the [Bud] brand," he said, and utilize its key driver for the company, Bud Light.
Johnson noted the difficult year the convenience channel has seen in 2007, partly due to high gas prices. "Retailers do support the category," he told guests. "The economy plays an impact in slowing sales there." He added: "With the high price of gas, [customers] have to make decisions -- its disposable income."
Ana Vitrano, manager of Latino marketing, told attendees about another focus for A-B -- the national rollout of its Budweiser and Bud Light Chelada beverage on Jan. 14. She noted that the opportunity for the drink -- which is a mix of the company's Budweiser or Bud Light beers with Cadbury Schweppes' Clamato juice -- came from consumers.
The "red beer," as it is often referred to, has been a product of Mexican culture, and A-B is marketing it to those consumers as a convenient way to get the traditional taste. Meanwhile, educational campaigns will be launched for the general market, touting it as a morning daypart beverage that can be an alternative to the bloody Mary, according to Vitrano.
She noted that the brand may see new packaging in 2008 -- current it is only sold in single-serve 24-ounce cans and 4-pack 16-ounce cans -- and that the test market throughputs were three times higher than anticipated, which resulted in some out-of-stocks, but ultimately increased demand in the six test cities along the California and Mexico, and Texas and Mexico borders.
The strategy for the new brand is to "let it grow on its own," she said, adding that customer demand will decide where the product will be sold, rather than having it "put in places where it doesn’t belong."
Other elements of the 2008 marketing plan for the brand include sampling, which takes the largest amount of focus, followed by merchandising at retail with point-of-sale (POS) materials, cooler bins and other signage. There will also be bilingual signage communicating awareness of the product in Spanish, while English-language materials will promote education.
Here's to Beer
The Here's to Beer program, a campaign that gives a voice to the entire beer industry, will continue to drive category growth in 2008, Bob Lachky, executive vice president of global industry development, told attendees.
The program's goal is to "generate positive publicity for the industry," and "encourages consumers to choose beer for more occasions, he said.
Part of the 2008 plans is to reinforce the message that beer pairs just as well with food as wine. To communicate this, the company has developed a training program for consumers and retailers to become "beer connoisseurs" on its Web site -- www.herestobeer.com. The first part of the process educates visitors on the brewing process and types of beer, and the second part teaches trainees how to pair different foods with various styles of beer.
Family of Brands
For 2008, A-B will tweak the image of its core brands, which will be seen in upcoming advertising and marketing campaigns.
An example of which is the Michelob family of beers. The company plans to create the perception that the brand is a craft line of beers, with seasonal and specialty-style offerings -- including Porter and AmberBock, according to Lachky. To reflect the craft notion, the company will launch a television ad campaign on Dec. 1, which highlights the various ingredients that make up Michelob beers, along with the passion its employees have in creating the beer. The tagline for the ad campaign is "crafting a better beer."
Meanwhile, the Budweiser brand will boast the title of "The Great American Lager," a position taken by the brand as it "called for a need for a distinct and clear position," between the import, craft and specialty beers available today, said Lachky.
In addition, the Bud Light brand will see an emphasis on "drinkability," he said. While the brand is known for its entertaining humorous profile, A-B needed to establish a product benefit to its consumers, as its competitors have done -- Coors Light claims cold, while Miller Lite boasts its taste and low calories, he said.
To accomplish this, Bud Light campaigns will see new copy and a tagline in advertisements, focusing on the phrase "Endless refreshment from start to finish, Bud Light keeps it coming."
Later, Dan McHugh, vice president of trademark brands, explained accompanying marketing elements for the three brands, including retail level initiatives.
McHugh explained that its core brands do well with 60 percent of the market. However, the remaining 40 percent of consumers who drive category growth and profit have been redefined by the company to gain purchases. Resources have been reprioritized to different brands and television advertising has been cut from eight brands to five and will be increased during the summer months, he said.
For the Budweiser brand, the 40 percent of consumers represent experimental consumers raised with flavor variety, who seek reasons to put Budweiser in their product set. "Very young consumers are into trying new flavors of beer younger than ever before," he said. "They are expecting us to tell them why they should pick up our product."
To do so, the company will establish a "stake in the ground" for Budweiser in the beer landscape, said McHugh. "Bud has always been a nomad, running around and in between [styles]." The stake will be its claim of "The Great American Lager."
Other strategies for the Budweiser brand include:
-- Increasing awareness of the quality and care A-B takes to brew Budweiser;
-- Setting standards for innovation, including past steps such as born-on-dating and the recent oxygen scavenging cap; and
-- Its status as an authentic American icon since 1876.
These measures will be accompanied by secondary packaging, sports and holiday marketing and a new bottle design that will feature a larger neck label, embossed shoulders and rings around the neck, to give it a craft feel, McHugh told attendees. The bottle will be tested in Boston, Portland, Ore., Seattle and Providence, R.I.
Similar to the Budweiser brand, Bud Light will strive to catch the other 40 percent of the market with claims of its "superior drinkability," said McHugh. The 40 percent of consumers it strives for are called "aspirers," who are status conscious, ethnic, urban, single and/or Latino males, he explained.
Strategies to gain aspirers include:
-- Leveraging the idea of more fun and more friendship with the drinkability claim;
-- Consistently delivering the drinkability message;
-- Marketing the brand as a sports companion and outdoor refresher; and
-- Establishing the brand as a leader in social innovation
To do so, the brand will see outdoor and print materials focusing on its rational points of difference. Inside cooler doors, the brand will "own the color blue," said McHugh. For sports marketing efforts, it will promote the National Football League and the NCAA with secondary packaging and tailgating efforts. The brand will also promote its Rock, Paper, Scissors championship for the third year. New to this year, A-B will offer a cruise contest for on- and off-premise consumers.