Why Bud Light Killed Golden Wheat and Created Platinum and Lime-A-Rita

Brand VP for Nation's Biggest Beer Brand Explains Line-Extension Strategy

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In the past few months, Bud Light has launched higher-alcohol Bud Light Platinum, killed Bud Light Golden Wheat and debuted Bud Light Lime "Lime-A-Rita," a margarita-flavored malt beverage in a can.

The changes come as advertising for the nation's largest beer brand is handled by two new agencies, Dentsu's McGarryBowen, which won the main Bud Light account last year, and Translation, which has Platinum and Lime. Lime's newest ads debut Friday, featuring a remix of Will Smith's "Summertime" by Swizz Beatz that was specially produced for the campaign.

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Lime could use a boost. Launched in 2008, it peaked in 2009 and shipments fell 13% last year, ranking it No. 20 among all beers, according the Beer Marketer's Insights. Even so, Anheuser-Busch continues to put significant dollars behind Lime, which got $18.7 million in measured media last year, according to Kantar Media. By contrast, MillerCoors has pulled above-the-line marketing support for its lime-flavored Miller Chill, which launched in 2007 and whose shipments fell 23% in 2011, according to Beer Marketer's.

Ad Age recently caught up Bud Light brand VP Mike Sundet to get his thoughts on Lime, Lime-A-Rita and how the brewer manages the other line extensions without damaging the core brand.

Ad Age : Bud Light is your biggest and most important brand. How do you make sure you don't overextend it with new versions?

Mr. Sundet: The key is to make sure that it all ties back into the essence of what Bud Light is all about. Bud Light is a fun, social, spontaneous brand. It's all about having fun with your friends. If you look at Bud Light Golden Wheat, I don't know that we executed that exactly the way it was intended. That came off as much more serious and much more of a craft beer, and that wasn't something consumers were looking for from Bud Light.

But Bud Light Platinum is all about fun and sociability in slightly higher-end, more sophisticated occasions. We are far exceeding our sales expectations with that brand because the concept is true to what Bud Light is all about.

Ad Age : Bud Light Lime's sales fell last year. What are you doing to turn it around?

Mr. Sundet: Last year the brand was off a little bit. As we look to this year, we've got an extremely strong television campaign. We've got more resources behind the brand. The messaging and the creative is stronger than it's ever been. We'll have a significant push throughout the summer.

The other thing that 's going to benefit Bud Light Lime this year is the successful launch of Bud Light Platinum ... With those two brands being at the same price point, it helps execution at the retail level. [Ad Age note: Both brands are priced at a premium to regular Bud Light.]

Ad Age : What do you mean by that ?

Mr. Sundet: From a retail standpoint, retailers typically don't want to feature one brand at a time. ... Last year, Bud Light Lime was kind of in a price point by itself. So a lot of times the brand was not included in these features. Therefore, it wouldn't get displays in store. So it just ends up being hard to execute.

Ad Age : How has Lime evolved?

Mr. Sundet: If you go back to the debut ads, it was a lot of stuff set on a beach and it was outdoor-like-style. Evolving out of that , the brand got into a little more artistic, illustrated ads that might not have had the same outdoor refreshment qualities. We took a step back toward that last year. ... This year it's just full-on let's show what the brand is all about. ... The positioning of the brand and that summertime attitude are hand-in-hand. It would be silly for us not to leverage that and take advantage of that .

Ad Age : Who does Lime-A-Rita target ? Is it aimed at females?

Mr. Sundet: It's co-ed. It's more of an occasion than a consumer demographic. It's for that occasion when [you] are looking for something slightly sweeter, very refreshing beverage. [Or] that occasion where they might want a margarita ... but can't really have it because it's not convenient to bring multiple ingredients and a blender somewhere.

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