Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Bud Select on Life Support?

Miller Brewing has a "blog", called Brew Blog, that carries industry news. Not surprisingly, the news is often bad news for Anheuser-Busch and good news for Miller, but as I explained elsewhere, that's what a blog is about: the blogger's thoughts and opinions. Besides, Brew Blog just reports stories that are found elsewhere.

For instance, they reported a story in Advertising Age that questioned the continued health of Bud Select, a brand that has puzzled me since its release. Is it a light beer? Say so. Is it a Bud Ultra? Say so. Is it a shot at an upscale light beer? Price it so, because Bud Select runs about the same price as Bud and Bud Light...so what's the point?

Here's the Blog:

Advertising Age noted that the [Bud Select] brand has declined at a double-digit rate in supermarkets so far this year, following 2006 performance in which sales fell by 7.6 percent. This is posing a major challenge for A-B, which has invested $170 million in marketing – and the name of its flagship – in the brand.

Bud Select was a topic at A-B’s recent wholesaler meeting. From the Ad Age report: "A-B … [drew] parallels between the early struggles of Select and Bud Light (now the largest beer brand in the world) and vowing to keep media spending constant with the past two years. They did acknowledge, however, that the brand's marketing has fallen prey to the same vague positioning that felled past brand extensions Bud Dry and Bud Ice, a pitfall A-B execs earlier vowed to avoid."


Looks like they broke their vows. And parallels with Bud Light? Bud Light has been a huge success, but let's be honest. Bud Light was also a "me too" knock-off of a beer that jump-started a category and was a huge success: Miller Lite. Bud Select is building on the success of what? Anyone? Corona Light, Amstel Light, even Sam Adams Light, are all -- like Bud Light -- light versions of a strong "regular calorie" beer. What's Bud Select? I've never really gotten a good answer that makes sense to me on that one.

It almost seems that Bud Select is A-B's Miller Clear: the triumph of marketing hubris over common sense. How long will they push this cart before admitting that the horse is dead?

11 comments:

bill mc said...

Miller Clear, jeez, I musta missed that one...

Shoot I bought a couple of cases of Pepsi Clear many years ago (for like $2 for 24) and they tasted pretty good with Bicardi.

I'll have to look in my garage to see if I still have any Pepsi Clear or Blue, I wonder if there's a market for it on e-bay (like new Coke)...while I'm at it I should dust off that bottle of Aspen that Patrick Wayne pitched decades ago. You think its any good...? ;)

Wayne said...

A friend of mine works in A-B distribution/sales in Atlanta so I had exposure to Bud Select before it went public a few years ago. The premise was to compete with Heineken, which is viewed as the Goliath of green bottled beer.

Bud challenged all it brewers worldwide to formulate a competitor for a bud green bottle. I do not know which brewer won the competition. Bud Select hit shelves in a green bottle a couple years later. I remember tasting it just before going to market and thinking "It's not skunky enough for the Heineken crowd."

After about 2 years and little to no traction A-B switched to a brown bottle and changed the branding a bit. I had the dis-pleasure of having a Select bottle a few months ago. There is no way the brown bottle Select is the same brew as the green bottled Select. No way. It tastes more like Bud or Michelob than a Heiny.

Lew Bryson said...

Wayne,
Different beer: you're thinking of Anheuser World Select, which was indeed aimed right at Heineken. I was still seeing it a year ago, but haven't seen it recently.

Obviously someone at A-B has a thing for the word "select." Bud Select is a sub-100 calories light beer. I was told by folks at A-B that it's a light beer for the more serious drinker, as opposed to Bud Light, which is for parties. I think. Like Ad Age said...kinda vague positioning.

bill mc said...

I thought Anheiser was decent but it did taste like Heineken. Bud Select was also aimed at low-carb, as well. (This is what the barkeep at my local watering hole told me when it was pitched to her.)

Tim said...

It is shocking that a company as large as Anheuser Busch could launch a product like this without having the faintest idea of what the product actually is. I have to admit, I, like Wayne, though World Select and Bud Select were one in the same.

thename said...

I thought the blow to Miller Lite came during the period in which it was simply "Lite" and A-B capitalized on the lack of clear branding with "Bud Light" in '82 when Lite took its first decrease in sales.

In any case, it appears that A-B introduced a new beverage where other companies would have simply redesigned packaging. Now they're just throwing good money after bad. I seem to recall the advertising for Bud Select mainly being along the lines of "brewed longer for a cleaner taste" or something with a slightly more sophisticated theme to the ads. It was introduced about the same time the MGD "grown up" ads ... macros realizing they were losing the urban-sophisticates.

bill mc said...

Now does anyone have the A-B Hurricane High Gravity lager? Its "brewed for a distinctive bold taste".(right from the label) Of course being 8.1% doesn't hurt either.

Wayne said...

My confusion of the two is illustration enough, I guess. *Blush* How can a company with as many bright folks as A-B have such difficulties with a product in its primary market?

Anonymous said...

So Bud Select was trying to be Amstel Light?

Lew Bryson said...

Beats me. Like I said, I'm not really clear at all on what they were trying to do!

Anonymous said...

BUD SELECT ROCKS!! It is smooth and low in calories like BUD LIGHT, but not "heavy" like some regular brews. I'm seeing lot's of 21-30 year old females drinking BUD SELECT now. I'm a guy who loves to see that-of course! I LOVE BUD SELECT! (Keep A-B American owned!) GLS/Bud Man Always...