March 19, 2013

The Insanely Opulent Collateral Briefcase for Budweiser's Black Crown

Some things are so enormous, they demand attention.

Quit snickering; she did not say that.

I mean that I do a blog on marketing design, and most of the stuff I write about differs in form, but not function. It's package design, printed collateral, the odd bottle opener or glassware, and lots of label art. I love it; it makes it easy to learn lots about the industry norms. But the reason for it is that most breweries are small businesses, and cash-conscious. When one gets to the point where it has money, like Dogfish or Victory, it puts that money into expansion or bigger marketing things it can sell (like Dogfish's art). None of them are big enough that they can do crazy marketing things just to do it.

Only a few breweries in the world could do that. One of them is Anheuser-Busch-InBev, largest brewing conglomerate in the world.

I got a huge briefcase from Budweiser for their Black Crown launch during the Super Bowl. It's sort of the capstone to the Project 12 thing I've written about quite a bit, and so they had a Budweiser-sized launch.

Here's what you can do with massive marketing dollars:

It's a giant silver briefcase. It looks sort of like something you'd keep launch codes or cyberwarfare tech or things with half-lives in.
Big marketing dollars at work
Seriously, it's like 2 and a half feet thick.

So what's inside?

#Tasteis a lot of things, apparently
Holy crap.

A bunch of foam egg carton on the top, and a wonderfully insulated display that includes three beers, a branding card, and...

I still have this, because what does one do with a giant suitcase of stuff?
I literally have no idea how much this cost.
Right, that's six vials on the left of what taste is. From top: beechwood chips, caramel malt, a lipstick smear (aka "passion"), glitter confetti (aka "great show"), a ballot from project 12 ("handpicked"), and nothing ("the unknown").

Yep. It's good to have money. They sent me - a not particularly influential person - a giant briefcase filled with mostly just marketing items that serve no purpose. I'm really trying to figure out what to do with it, now that I've had the beer.

About the beer: it's a mediocre lager. Sort of like a stronger, low-rent Yuengling. It lacks any real flavor or character. It's a bummer that the promises of the Project 12 experimentation ended in a very bland beer that, while technically I suppose is flawless, is also definitively lifeless.

I still have serious questions about the whole idea's ability to do anything for Budweiser's market share. I don't see it cracking much of the craft market, and if it does manage to cannibalize some of Bud's existing market, I don't see the consumers staying with it when they can have a Sam Adams Boston Lager. Perhaps the goal is to get consumers before they leave for other beers, in a sort of stop-loss effort? Or maybe the market research team has decided people only like craft because it seems expensive, so if they launch something that seems more expensive, people will drink it. Whatever the case, Bud is obviously committed to it, so I don't think it's going away any time soon.

And I guess this briefcase was a big enough gesture to get me to write about something I really never planned on, so in that sense it worked. Hard to imagine the ROI was positive on the marketing effort, but in big business, sometimes sustaining market position counts as much as generating sales. It really is two different worlds.

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