Anheuser-Busch InBev has launched a digital campaign called "Let's Grab a Beer" that seeks to promote, you guessed it, beer. While that is not surprising, this is: The program carries almost no branding.
The effort, which is anchored by a new website, is aimed at growing the total beer category. The site includes a combination of original and aggregated content, ranging from "deep reads about the past, present and future of beer" to colorful charts and graphics. One chart, for instance, states that "33% of Americans would prefer to get to know someone over a beer," while only 22% would "prefer to get to know someone over a cocktail." The source is a survey conducted for the campaign by Wakefield Research.
As the dominant beer company in the U.S. by market share, A-B InBev obviously stands to gain if the total beer category grows. And growing volume has become a critical task for the beer industry in recent years as the liquor industry has gained business partly through more aggressive marketing by individual brands.
But there is also an inherent fear in industry circles about the so-called "wineification" of beer. This refers to placing emphasis on beer styles, versus brands. For instance, if more people walk into bars and ask for a "wheat beer," rather than a Shock Top or Blue Moon, brands become less valuable. And good branding equals profits.
"They are facing the ultimate challenge here of trying to promote a category that really lives through its brands," said one industry executive, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "So how do you celebrate beer without making it a commodity? The value of the industry is in the equity of the brands."
One section of A-B InBev's new site includes a "spring beer guide." It describes the difference between American amber and red ales versus maibock and light bock beers versus dry stouts. No brand examples are included in the chart.
Julia Mize, who is overseeing the new campaign as the company's VP for "Beer Category + Community," is not concerned that new effort will commoditize beer. "We want consumers to understand all the different varieties that are available with beer for different occasions," she said. "And we wanted to do it in a non-branded way so that we make sure we are connecting with the consumers and it's not forced. It's not marketing. Our intention here is to just have a resource that is relevant and fun and celebrates beer."
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She said the brewer has been working on global "beer category" initiatives for five years. The "Let's Grab a Beer" campaign marks the first push by the U.S. division. "We are really looking at the long-term health of the beer category and making sure it maintains and grows its relevance with all the new consumers that are coming through," she said.
The project will get paid digital ad support, and includes a new Twitter handle, @letsgrababeer. The campaign was launched on Tuesday in conjunction with "National Beer Day."
The site includes aggregated content ranging from publications such as Business Insider to Vinepair.com, the latter of which mostly covers the wine industry. The cross-posted Vinepair chart shows a map of the U.S. and lists "the companies who actually make your beer."
The site is supported by the Zeno Group PR agency, which won a pitch for the project, Ms. Mize said. The brewer has also lined up several paid contributors whose expertise ranges from food and travel to photography, said Bob Fishbeck, senior brand manager for the beer category effort.
This is not the first beer category-building campaign. The Beer Institute, a beer trade organization, has been running a "Brand Beer" campaign for a while. But the campaign targets politicians and policy makers, not consumers.
The last big consumer-facing beer image campaign, called "Here's to Beer," came in 2006 and was led by Anheuser-Busch and endorsed by the Beer Institute. It included broadcast TV and online ads and was intended to bring together multiple beer companies. But it later fell apart because A-B was not able to lure competitors aboard.
Today, the involvement of other companies seems less critical, when all A-B InBev needs to do is pull from the growing amount of beer-related content from across the web.
The campaign was first reported by Beer Marketer's Insights.