Marketing Lessons From Budweiser: Give Your Workhorse a Breather

AB InBev is giving its famed Clydesdale horses a break during this year’s Super Bowl, in favor of a message focused on the good that the company does. Read on for some takeaways about what that decision means.

Your marketing campaign may be a long-term success, one that has come to define your organization, but sometimes even the best ideas need a little bit of a break.

For years, AB InBev has been giving Budweiser an annual nudge by putting animals at the front of its advertising—specifically the iconic Clydesdale horses that have appeared in ads during every Super Bowl since 2002. Furthermore, the horses with a Scottish lineage have appeared in Super Bowls going as far back as 1975 and have been associated with the Budweiser brand since 1933.

But this year, the company is going in a different direction, instead promoting its charitable efforts to deliver water from its breweries to disaster-struck parts of the United States. While the company will promote the Clydesdales in a digital segment, according to Ad Age, it is playing down the marketing element in favor of an approach that appears more vital considering the disaster-heavy 2017 news cycle, which saw hurricane-related tragedies in Florida, Texas and Puerto Rico, among other parts of the country.

A few association marketing takeaways from the shift:

The value of multiple marketing plays. One of the reasons AB InBev has the flexibility to change its messaging like this is that it has multiple marketing identities. Budweiser represents multiple things, and while it can work effectively in one mode, it’s not opposed to changing things up given the mood of its audience—which is, effectively, all U.S. adults who drink beer. A marketing strategy that provides room for different approaches allows organizations to leverage messaging opportunities.

A mood for storytelling. The culture is changing, something AB InBev is fully aware of as Americans’ taste in beer is shifting away from macrobrews and in favor of light beer and craft brews. The company’s vice president of Budweiser marketing, Ricardo Marques, told the Wall Street Journal [registration] that it’s putting more emphasis on telling stories to help its brand reconnect with an audience that has come to embrace storytelling. “We lost a little bit of that human connection to the brand,” he said.

The power of cause marketing. AB InBev’s water program has been active for more than 30 years, but the company has largely passed on promoting the campaign during the Super Bowl. But because of the organization’s ability to flexibly change its brand, it can put more weight on cause marketing, something that corporations are more willing to put their energy into in the modern era.

So while people love those Clydesdales, AB InBev’s decision to put them in the stable for a year gives Budweiser a chance to recalibrate.

What are your thoughts on the move? Share them in the comments.


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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