Spuds MacKenzie is back in marketing, this time selling hemp treats for dogs
Spuds MacKenzie has gone from being the original party animal to the ultimate health mutt.
The 1980s Bud Light spokesdog’s name is now gracing packages of dog treats. The pet products from Spuds Ventures LLC don’t contain beer. They’re made with hemp seed and hemp oil, and CBD-infused products are in the works.
And while the Spuds MacKenzie name is on the packaging, there’s a new spokesdog. This Spuds was adopted in March by Mark Thomann. He’s the founder and CEO of Dormitus Brands, which tries to revive the success of once-popular brands, and co-founder and managing partner of Spiral Sun Ventures, which invests in companies making products with better-for-you profiles.
The plan for the pet treats came to Thomann on his flight back to Chicago after attending Natural Products Expo West, an annual trade show. After seeing numerous hemp- and CBD-infused products at Expo West, he decided those types of ingredients could be marketed for pets.
“Pet food is a growing category, and I think hemp and CBD products are going to continue to grow in a significant way,” says Thomann.
Bud Light's Spuds MacKenzie commercials were popular but were blasted by some who said they promoted underage drinking. Thomann thought it was a “brilliant” campaign.
“I can’t say that I was much of a Bud Light drinker, but I certainly was a fan of Spuds,” he says.
The dog gracing the pet treat packaging isn’t a bull terrier. That was one part of a settlement agreement reached in October 2017 after Spuds Ventures sued Anheuser-Busch InBev and agency Wieden & Kennedy. The civil suit came soon after a 2017 Super Bowl ad resurrected the party animal as a ghost in a nod to the 30th anniversary of the campaign, which originated at DDB Needham Chicago. Thomann’s company can use the name, which it has the rights to in the category, but can’t do so with the old likeness, Thomann says.
Spuds Ventures currently holds the trademark registrations for Spuds MacKenzie when it comes to various pet products. Anheuser-Busch holds the registrations for use in bars, beer gardens, pubs, restaurants, and taprooms, as well as on shirts, baseball caps, and pajamas.
On the flight back to Chicago from Anaheim, he came up with the idea to adopt the new Spuds, he says, a decision that adds promoting pet rescue to the brand’s story. After the flight, he headed to Chicago’s Anti-Cruelty Society.
“He just seemed to be the perfect fit for a transition from what was Spuds MacKenzie to what can be Spuds MacKenzie,” says Thomann of the puppy he adopted in March and quickly named Spuds.
“It has to be authentic, and I’ve always been a big proponent of rescuing dogs and adopting dogs through shelters,” says Thomann, who had adopted another dog from the shelter years before.
Thomann isn’t entirely sure what mix of breeds his now 65-pound, six-month-old puppy is, though he clearly doesn’t look like a bull terrier. People who see Spuds on walks suggest he’s at least part coonhound, says Thomann.
The new products, he says, may resonate with owners who rescue dogs, since shelter dogs sometimes have anxiety, and older ones, in particular, may have health issues that he says the new treats are meant to address. Prior to the trademark dispute, Thomann’s company released Spuds MacKenzie nutraceuticals for dogs, which it stopped selling once the litigation commenced in 2017.
The first new product is an anti-anxiety and calming treat with a smoky bacon flavor. A hip and joint formula with hemp oil is set to hit the market, followed by a product with CBD, Thomann says. Products such as soaks and shampoos may follow.
Anheuser-Busch declined to comment on the pet treats.
For now, the products will be sold online. CPG.io is handling ecommerce. Thomann says he’s looking for an ad agency for the brand, which he hopes to have in retail stores in January.