King of Beers Still Reigns When It Comes to Boldness

Commentary: Trailblazing Ideas Keep Bud Brand Vital and Relevant

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[Editor's note: DDB Chairman-Chief Creative Officer Bob Scarpelli penned the following in response to Tim Arnold's Aug. 11 CMO Strategy piece, "InBev, the Only Way to Bring Back Bud Is by Being Fearless."]


Bob Scarpelli
Bob Scarpelli
A lot has changed since Tim Arnold worked on the Budweiser brand way back when, not the least of which are customers' tastes and the array of choices they have. I know. I've worked in the beer business with A-B for more than 30 years myself. And in those 30 years, I've seen one thing that hasn't changed: A-B's passionate commitment to its brands and its willingness to trust its gut and make brave, bold choices for those brands.

We all admire the work D'Arcy did for Budweiser 30-plus years ago. As Mr. Arnold points out, it was bold and pattern-breaking back then. In my opinion, "This Bud's for You" is still one of the greatest campaign ideas of all time. The work was so right for its time. But the truth is that when August Busch III moved the business from D'Arcy to DDB Needham in 1994, Bud was a brand that found itself in just about the worst place a beer brand can find itself: It was in danger of becoming "my dad's beer" among those in the critical 21-to-27-year-old market. That's the kiss of death in beer marketing.

But with innovative ideas and initiatives, A-B has managed to once again make Budweiser a relevant brand to the core audience and beyond. To name a few: "Born on" dating; "Whassup?!"; the Budweiser Frogs (originally created by D'Arcy, then extended by DDB); the iconic Clydesdales; the lizards; True Music; and Bud.TV. Many of those communications created talk value and became part of the culture. Also consider the connections A-B has made with its sports-fan customers at every touch point from Nascar to Major League Baseball -- this on top of its Super Bowl domination. Those ideas and many others like them were championed by August Busch IV, Bob Lachky, Tony Ponturo and the brand teams in St. Louis.

And remember, all the while, the bulk of A-B's marketing dollars were going to Bud Light. Tastes have changed in 30 years, but I'm proud to say that A-B is the only major beer marketer whose light-beer brand did not effectively kill the parent brand. With the support and partnership of the A-B team, our ideas such as "Gimme a Light," "Spuds MacKenzie," "Great Lengths" and "Real Men of Genius" (by the way, the most awarded radio campaign in history) changed the playing field; rewrote the beer-marketing textbook; and helped propel Bud Light past "Lite Beer from Miller," Coors Light and all the rest.

From a standing start in 1982, and while giving the brand whose name defined the category (Lite) a 10-year head start, Bud Light blew past the competition in 1994 and has become the best-selling beer in the world. In fact, today, Miller Lite and Coors Light sales added together don't equal Bud Light sales. More important, Budweiser remains the No. 2-selling beer in the U.S., ahead of those competitors.

No brand or company gets those kinds of results without making the right decisions -- and bold decisions. Credit for that goes to the A-B team through the years, some of the best marketers I've worked with in my career.

I agree with Mr. Arnold that, with the InBev purchase of Anheuser-Busch, huge opportunities are there for the Great American Lager, the great Budweiser brand. That will be especially true if Anheuser-Busch/InBev rolls out the brand globally, as has been discussed.

The King of Beers deserves to be King of the World. And it will achieve that goal by being bold, aggressive, confident and daring, just as it has always been.
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