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Lo-res_MHHE002022-SMarketing, branding, and packaging campaigns often involve months of preparation and planning, such that when Budweiser first came up with the idea of replacing its brand name with the word “America” on all its cans, it had no idea who would be running for the U.S. Presidency in the 2016 election. It had no way of knowing that Donald Trump would become the Republican Party nominee or that his slogan would invoke the same word that would soon be splashed all over its products.

But was the move really apolitical? Even if Anheuser-Busch InBev (the international conglomerate that owns the Budweiser brand) could not predict who the nominees would be, the “America in Your Hand” campaign was timed for the summer months, set to coincide with the major parties’ nominating conventions and the thick of the election cycle. Thus some observers have argued that the firm is clearly making a political statement, though precisely what that statement is remains a little unclear. When asked, Trump asserted that the “America” labels represented an implicit endorsement of his campaign.

In contrast, Budweiser spokespeople quickly noted that the timing of the campaign was designed solely and specifically to invoke patriotism in the months leading into the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. It also continually seeks to highlight its “quintessentially” American identity, despite being owned by a Brazilian–Belgian firm. Accordingly, one corporate response to a Facebook post asserted confidently, “America’s greatness has always been achieved by people who give a damn, and we’re proud to release this patriotic cans and bottles that embody that same spirit.”

Regardless of the intent, the campaign has achieved at least one of the primary goals of advertising: Lots of people are talking about it. Immediately after the release of the repackaged brews, Budweiser earned more than 1 million mentions in news and social media—a level that is comparable to the response sparked by a successful Super Bowl advertisement. Another measure showed that advertising awareness, word of mouth, and purchase considerations all increased for Budweiser in the week following the packaging redesign.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What makes Budweiser’s “America Is in Your Hands” campaign controversial?
  2. Is this controversy good for Budweiser or not? Justify your answer.

Source: Martha C. White, “Budweiser’s New Campaign Taps Into Political Climate,” The New York Times, May 15, 2016

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