How to Keep Brew Red, White and Blue

Brand's Image Can Stay American, Even If Owners Aren't

By Published on .

Mark Eden
Mark Eden
Since the announcement of InBev's purchase of Anheuser-Busch, the beverage blogosphere has been inundated with dire predictions for the Budweiser brand, from "I'll never drink Bud again" to "I'm going to throw out my Belgian waffle maker" to "What're they going to do, send the Clydesdales to European circuses?" Reaction has been swift, passionate and patriotic.

Forty-four percent of Bud-drinking respondents to a Quick Vote poll said they would stop drinking the King of Beers if a Belgian company owned it. Many brands should be so fortunate to have such a fervent and loyal following.

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As a Canadian and a career marketer, I've seen many takeovers of Canadian companies by Americans, Europeans and Asians. Heck, Labatt Breweries and Hudson's Bay Co., brands as synonymous with Canada as Mounties and Canadian bacon, were bought and are doing just fine.

So how can A-B ensure that its loyalists won't defect to Pabst or Miller? Here's my advice.

1. Be yourself. Bud is as American as apple pie and baseball. Keep that image strong, and consumers won't care who owns you.

2. Keep employees informed. Whether they work in the brewery or the front office, they will deliver your message more effectively than any press release can.

3. Stay the course. Assure the recipients of your generous corporate largess, from Nascar to the local arts festival, that there will be no changes to your partnerships.

4. Family matters. Make sure every media outlet knows that the Busch family will maintain its place in the strategic growth and tactical operation of the company.

Mark Eden is senior VP at the Marketing Store, Toronto.
5. Reconsider selling SeaWorld. Beer and killer whales don't mix. But keep Busch Gardens. Where else can youngsters see the horsies while daddy has a cold one? It's a valuable feeder stream for future loyalists.

And remember what Lincoln said: "I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts ... and beer."
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