King: “Barkeep, Bud Lights for everyone!”
Guest: “Actually, I prefer a nice mead.”
King: “Barkeep, Bud Lights for everyone and one mead.”
Guest: “Is it autumnal?”
King: “Barkeep, Bud Lights for everyone and one autumnal mead.”
Guest: “Is it malty and full-bodied because I like—–“
King: “Cancel that mead.”(Guest shackled in the stocks)
“Bud Light. For the Many, Not the Few.”
As we’re approaching the end to 2018, we thought it a good time to follow up on a storyline that we first wrote back in January. In that DISPATCHES, entitled “Differentiating (and Competing)—with Psychographics,” we featured a closer look at the three leading beer brands in the United States: Bud Light, Coors Light, and Lite Beer from Miller. If you read that article, you may recall that we made two key points: (1) though typically overlooked as a strategic move, a brand can differentiate and win with its choice of target; and (2) at the time, both Bud Light and Coors Light were clearly aiming to differentiate themselves from the other by consciously selecting and speaking to a different psychographic target (i.e., drinkers with different mindsets when it comes to drinking beer). Oh yes, there was one other (fine) point we made as well—namely, the third brand, the “original” light beer, Lite Beer from Miller was still trying to differentiate by product…a near hopeless strategy given that all three brands have similar product specs and taste about the same.
We issued that January article just before the 2018 Super Bowl, and it was on that very occasion that Bud Light evolved its engaging and very drinker-driven TV ad campaign from “Famous Among Friends” to its current, more entertaining, and still very drinker-driven campaign, “For The Many, Not The Few” (which is sometimes now just referred to as the “King” campaign because of the main character it features). This new campaign offers much to be admired, putting aside even its silly, but nevertheless popular rallying cry, “Dillly, Dilly” (which, by the way, is yet another Bud Light advertising hallmark—think “Whassup?”). So much has the campaign to offer—strategically as well as executionally—that we would argue it’s truly a dilly of a campaign…as the dictionary defines “dilly”: something that is remarkable or outstanding. Here are some of the elements that, we think, make it a dilly:
- It’s a seamless evolution from “Famous Among Friends”—to be even more drinker-inclusive. That notion of “famous” not only communicated the brand’s $6BB+ sales volume and its ultra-dominant share of the U.S. market, but it also spoke to the amazing popularity of the brand. Transitioning now to “For the Many, Not the Few” makes a similar, if more direct, statement about the brand’s wide-breadth of popularity. And the move from “Among Friends” to “The Many” implies that Bud Light is for just about anyone who enjoys good times and good beers with people, whether all those people be “best buds” or not.
- It further defines and engages the psychographic segment that Bud Light owns—by poking good fun at a psychographic segment the brand has no interest in even including. In our January article, we took a shot at inferring a label for the Bud Light psychographic segment, as implied by the “Famous Among Friends” total campaign (TV + digital + promotion, and so on): we inferred these drinkers to be “Pack-Bonders, friends of many demographic specs who share in common their passion for good times with their true friends, and who want to keep building the bonds among them.” In light of what we’ve inferred as a further opening of Bud Light’s psychographic target, we might now alter our inferred psychographic label to something like “Good Times Belongers.” But whether this label is spot on or not, one thing is certain: Bud Light’s psychographics definitely exclude beer drinkers who view their beer choice akin to a fine wine choice. We might, in keeping with the humor of the campaign, call these drinkers “Picky Dilettantes” or even (given the places such drinkers are banished to in the ads—the stocks or the dungeon named “Pit of Misery”) “Banished Kill-Joys.” You could argue that, for Bud Light, the “enemy” isn’t the craft beers or other light beers; rather, it’s the goofy, overly picky beer sophisticate—a drinker, not a drink!
- Among the three brands, only Bud Light now appears to be succeeding with psychographic target differentiation. Just as with “Famous Among Friends,” the new “For the Many, Not the Few” is a communication campaign much more about the drinker than the drink. Such a strategy, particularly among categories that are more about social interaction than product performance, andwhen directed against a volumetrically meaningful target in a “let’s not take ourselves too seriously” yet believable fashion, can make a lot more sense than the traditional “let’s tell our Beechwood-Aged/Cold-Filtered/Rocky Mountain Spring Water” product-driven strategy. While we have no recent volume or share gain data to prove the point (that Bud Light’s drinker-driven strategy is winning), we can make a couple of reasonable inferences:
- Coming into 2018, Coors Light was also pursuing a more drinker-driven strategy with its “Whatever Your Mountain, Climb On” campaign. But that campaign seems to have ended awhile ago. The brand is now back in familiar product-driven territory a return to its “The World’s Most Refreshing Beer” communications. This suggests to us that the “Climb On” communication didn’t really work all that well…which, when you think about it, isn’t all that surprising. The notion of choosing your beer because of your psychographic drive to achieve, to meet any and all challenges, is pretty darn cerebral—for the beer business anyway. Maybe not for athletic performance brands, like Nike or Under Armour…or even Gatorade.
- Bud Light, on the other hand, continues to evolve and build upon its drinker-driven, be a part of the ever-expanding “Bud Light Many” tribe…which suggests to us that Bud Light brand-builders like what they’re getting from the communication investment (which, obviously, is no small investment).
For these reasons, as well as for some of the more subtle but quite clever executional touches (such as the way the mead lovers look and speak as silly outsiders who are full of themselves, but don’t know it), we definitely think “For the Many, Not the Few” is a dilly of a TV campaign. So, why not say it? Dilly, Dilly!
Richard Czerniawski & Mike Maloney