The long-touted “King of Beers” has decided to replace its namesake on all cans and bottles with the name America. So if you’re picking up a case of Budweiser this summer, don’t be alarmed by the stunning patriotism plastered all over the product. This change stays in effect throughout the summer, reverting back to the original brandname after the presidential election.
I felt the need to write about this because I have a history of writing about branding beer, and this move on Budweiser’s part is obviously a huge statement for the future of branding and how we, the public, perceive it.
There are a couple of reasons why this says so much about how brands might communicate in years to come. The first one is more glaring: The brandname Budweiser has been all but completely removed from the packaging, only visible in one or two spots with their signature bowtie mark. It’s definitely not prominent. Can you imagine proposing such a change to the CEO of a company? It’s unheard of.
Now, you probably realize that not every brand could get away with something like this. Budweiser is an incredibly established name, especially in America, so the freedom they afford with their massive reach is pretty broad. On the other hand, the consequences for any branding blunder are even greater, so chances are good that their temporary name change was a rather calculated move.
We’re not talking about how AB InBev was able to do it (that’s the conglomerate that owns the Budweiser name), we’re considering why they did it. But, before we move on to that, I want to explain the timing of this decision and why it made the most sense now.
Side note: AB InBev is the recent merger of Anheuser Busch and InBev, i.e. Budweiser and Miller. That means they own both of those brands. Can you say beer monopoly?
It’s undeniable that this year’s presidential election has brought many controversial subjects to the surface, and most of that has occurred because of Republican candidate Donald Trump (and probably more-so whatever PR/Marketing people are behind him). Trump’s brazen, unhindered remarks about anything from “building the wall” to his sexual escapades have marked a change in the way we qualify presidential candidates. Not only that, but they have set a new standard for what it means to be in the limelight.
This kind of exaggerated, over-indulged public behavior set the stage for what will probably be a pretty historical move in branding history, if only as a joke. Budweiser knows changing their name to America is ridiculous, and that’s exactly why they did it.
But the question is why did they do it? Well, I think that has something to do with Trump too (surprise, surprise). All this talk about “making America great again” and keeping our country “pure” has polarized the American people. Some are nearly to the point of worshipping America like some type of religion, while others are maybe not patriotic enough. Either way, everyone is considering how much pride they should have in their country, and Budweiser knows that.
In short, Budweiser is taking advantage of American citizens eager desire to prove their patriotism. Yes, even drinking a beer that says “America” is enough to prove you’re as patriotic as they come. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, though. Budweiser simply recognized a way they could help a group of people better express their identities.
It’s a natural assumption that this is only the beginning of brands representing themselves in less corporate, more human ways. I, for one, am interested in this type of future. Instead of being sterile, safe, faceless entities, brands will start to take on more personable identities. They’ll take sides on political, religious, and ethical issues, allowing the public to more wisely choose the businesses with which they do business. This concept might seem strange, but branding is simply the cry of the people, and what the people are saying is we need brands to be honest, genuine, and true to themselves.