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Budweiser is proof you can try too hard to appeal

The Budweiser Clydesdales are an advertising icon.-(BUDWEISER/FACEBOOK)

“I used to be cool,” says the aging Budweiser brand at nearly 139 years old.The pale lager sits stagnant in its keg, reminiscing about the good old days — until, suddenly, indignation.

“I could still be cool!” it insists.

Cue the slew of embarrassing and costly mistakes that not only push away the “cool kids” it’s trying to impress, but also the people that have proved their loyalty to the brand over the years.

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If you are over the age of 45 and reading this right now, I know you can relate.

Now, now, don’t get me wrong — I know I’ll be able to relate in about 20 years, too.

The simple truth is that, no matter what age we are, we all know how trying too hard can actually make things worse. (Please burn the Juicy pants, Mom. I don’t even wear Juicy pants. Nor have I ever).

But it’s a lesson that Budweiser clearly needs to learn for itself.

The Wall Street Journal published an article precluding Budweiser’s reinvention this Sunday, and when it comes down to the numbers, Budweiser’s attempt actually makes quite a bit of sense.

According to Beer Marketer’s Insights, Budweiser currently has a 7.6 percent share of the $100 billion U.S. beer market — down from 10 percent five years ago, and 14.5 percent a decade ago.

But according to the National Beer Wholesalers Association, the number of people who turned 21 in 2013 peaked at 4.6 million — representing the largest number of new drinkers since the Baby Boom.

That’s a ripe looking demographic for the taking.

And according to the brand’s parent company, Anheuser-Busch InBev, 44 percent of 21- to 27-year-old drinkers today have never even tried Budweiser.

So how can they know they’d prefer a pumpkin cider to a refreshing, crisp Budweiser?

They can’t. But, I don’t know that they care.

According to Nielsen, craft beer makes up 15 percent of this demographic’s out-of-home buys, compared with 10 percent for older generations.

And the parent company’s own brands have even contributed to the decline in Budweiser’s volumes over the last 25 years, from nearly 50 million barrels in 1988 to 16 million barrels last year.

For example, Bud Light overtook Budweiser as the No. 1 selling beer in 2011, and its craft beers and flavored malts such as Lime-a-Rita have resulted in a 9 percent decline in Budweiser shipments since 2011.

But then again, brands have often fought back against continuing trends to become trendy once again themselves.

I definitely own multiple pairs of leggings (despite having been born in 1988), bring PBR to parties (despite not being a hipster — just cheap), and wear Converse sneakers because they’re comfortable — not because they’re ironic.

So, okay. Let’s give Budweiser a chance to prove itself, then. What’s its plan?

Get rid of the Clydesdales.

That’s right — in order to “appeal” to this new demographic of drinkers, Budweiser is going to take its 28-year-old iconic horses out to pasture instead of trotting them in for holiday advertising.

I’m 26. I’m a part of that demographic. And I like and recognize the Clydesdales — what gives?

Well, Budweiser thinks it needs to relate to us as a peer in order for us to feel all warm and fuzzy and receptive to Budweiser for the holidays.

Instead of our beloved Clydesdales, holiday advertising for Budweiser is going to feature 20-somethings looking into the camera and calling out strangers’ names as a narrator asks, “If you could grab a Bud with any of your friends these holidays, who would it be?’”

A question for those with college-aged kids — when you try to treat them as if they’re your best friend, how does that work out for you? 

Right.

So go ahead and target college towns, music and food festivals, and involve more current performers — but don’t take away our traditions, Bud.

We barely care about each other, let alone strangers on a television telling us how we should.

And we want our horses back.

Neither PBR nor Converse alienated their core demographics — which, for Budweiser are drinkers now between the ages of 28 and 34 — in order to reinvent their cool factor.

Instead, they took a look at the demographics they already appealed to, and marketed directly to them outside the mainstream. And younger demographics soon followed suit. 

“If you try to be too young and too hip, you lose your base,” said Tony Ponturo, a former Anheuser-Busch senior marketing executive, to The Wall Street Journal.

“They’ll say, ‘That’s not my Budweiser anymore.’ You have to start with a message that resounds with a new generation of people but doesn’t throw off the core drinker.”

So bring back the Clydesdales, Bud, if you know what’s good for you.

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