Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The king is confused

In an effort to end the slide of the Budweiser brand, Anheuser Busch will be introducing yet another new beer next year, probably on the Super Bowl as it did last year with Bud Light Platinum.

Budweiser Black Crown Golden Amber Lager appears to be yet another attempt by the brand to crack into the still growing and profitable craft beer segment defined by such brands as Samuel Adams, Bell's, Rogue and others.

That's not to say that Anheuser-Busch InBev doesn't already compete in the category with their full or partial ownership of, or distribution alliances with brands like Shock Top, Redhook, Goose Island, Widmer Brothers, Old Dominion and a few others. This has been a solid strategy since the master brand has no credibility in craft brewing – which is what makes this new line extension a little baffling.

The Budweiser brand has some outstanding assets: distribution muscle, nearly 100% awareness, the crown symbol, "The King of Beers," a heritage in American light lagers, and more. What the Bud brand doesn't have are craft beer credentials. 

What reason do people who drink craft beers have to switch to Black Crown? What reason do current Bud drinkers have to put this into their rotation? That this is the winner of a competition between its 12 brewmasters isn't going to do it.

If InBev really wants the Budweiser brand to play in this category, they should use their size and strength to enter the category with a complete line of beers that create a cohesive presence at retail and on premise. They should create a story behind the brand that gives the new line a purpose. And, they should show how this new line complements their current portfolio. Dipping their corporate toe in the water with one beer, no matter how good it is, won't grow the brand.

This beer will only create more complexity for a brand that's already too inconsistent and confusing.

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