Should you be selling your brand’s attributes or its emotional connection?

13 May

Budweiser and Islander Beer take a new emotional approach to advertising

In the past few years, America’s largest brewer, Anheuser-Busch has stressed product attributes in an attempt to regain the perception of quality around its flagship brew, Budweiser. Their recent campaigns site Bud’s longstanding “commitment” to quality ingredients and original recipe, but do beer drinkers really care?

This is an age old question that marketers too often forget to ask. Sure the fact that A-B uses premium ingredients and processes matters to the company and its operations, but when it comes to picking a six-pack, is “quality and commitment” what goes through consumer’s mind when they’re looking for a cold one? As it turns out, it’s probably not top of mind nor their biggest motivator.

Over the past year sales for Bud have declined under their attribute driven campaign. To stem the sales decline, A-B and its agency have returned to the more emotional approach for selling that served it so well for so long. (Think the old the 1980s campaign “For all you do, This Bud’s for you”)

While highlighting product benefits is important, these benefits must also connect with the consumer in a way that resonates with them. Consumers will make their own judgments about the “quality” of your product based on their experience. As advertisers it’s our job to build emotions into the experience they have with a brand.

Vancouver Island Brewery is a great local example of a brewer who gets the power of the emotional connection. The company was the first brewery on Vancouver Island, and it is still one of the largest. While their beers are made from the highest quality ingredients, and their packs are the freshest on the Island, their marketing department has recognized that these attributes are not the emotional drivers that bond beer-drinkers to their brands.

VIB has focused the branding of its North American style lager, Vancouver Islander, on what bonds people from Vancouver Island together. VIB’s aim for their latest campaign is not to establish awareness around Islander’s attributes, but rather to have the brand become a social badge that tells other Islanders you are one of them.

Stay tuned to see how beer drinkers in America and on Vancouver Island will respond to beer that not only quenches their thirst, but gives them a tangible connection to their tribe.

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5 Responses to “Should you be selling your brand’s attributes or its emotional connection?”

  1. ThatGuySteve May 13, 2009 at 1:41 pm #

    I think the change was needed for A-B because of the poor image they were giving their beer (college party’s, girls in bikini’s, etc) and the rising of the craft beer/microbrew.

    This to has been stealing it’s sales which is why it has been slowly integrating new beers (American Ale, etc.).

  2. Amanda Waye May 13, 2009 at 2:14 pm #

    I agreed, I think the attribute campaign was needed to pull the perception of the brand out of the preverbal gutter (the potty humor that was used in the past). It will be interesting to see how A-B walks the line between keeping the attributes they have been pushing top of mind, while bringing some humor and engagement back to their campaigns. Like you, I hope they don’t revert back to their frat-house humor to accomplish this.

  3. Duncan Milne May 14, 2009 at 4:22 pm #

    I agree wholeheartedly with Amanda and Steve. A-B had become too focused on one demographic of beer drinker (ie. booty chasing college males). Their past campaigns (Wazzzup! comes to mind) focused on entertaining that demographic rather than informing them of the product qualities. As a discerning beer drinker of that specific demographic, I may enjoy the humour in the commercial (guilty), but it is not going to make me reach for the six-pack in the liquor store when a competitors product is similarly priced and offers far more flavour and depth.

  4. ThatGuySteve May 15, 2009 at 5:52 am #

    I’m really interested to see how they are going to be able to pull off the emotions people connect with Budweiser, mostly nostalgic, when they are now a foreign owned company.

    Time will tell.

  5. Amanda Waye May 16, 2009 at 12:46 pm #

    Good call Steve, though I somewhat doubt the average US beer drinker knows that Budweiser is now owned by a Belgium/Brazilian company, it will be interesting to see if any short/long term backlash does occur.

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