Holiday Marketing: Bud Light V.P. Talks About Branding

Just in time for May 5 – widely known for its association with the Mexican holiday of Cinco de Mayo – Budweiser is discussing its marketing strategy with relation to two popular, nontraditional drinks in its arsenal: Bud Light Lime and the newer Lime-A-Rita. One of these has been around since 2008 (among the first in a long line of lime-flavored beers on the grocery store shelf), and the other is one you’re probably hearing about for the first time.

Last year, Bud Light Lime saw a decline in sales nationwide, with 13% fewer shipments and only 20th placing among all national beer brands. In a timely interview – considering that lime-flavored drinks are often associated with Cinco de Mayo, Mexican food flavor profiles and other south-of-the-border contexts – Ad Age interviewed Mike Sundet, Bud Light’s vice president, to discuss that loss of sales and what the brand is doing about it in order to compensate for 2012.

Sundet said that one strategy is ensuring that all of Bud Light’s branches reflect the same core brand message. Bud Light is getting rid of its Golden Wheat beer, which didn’t match the intended brand profile. By strengthening the way people perceive Bud Light, with a consistent message, it will also serve to bolster people’s opinions of Bud Light Lime. Bud Light is also releasing Bud Light Platinum at the same price point, so that when one special or sale is advertised, the ramifications can easily expand to both of the beers in question since they won’t be segregated by contradictory costs or competing in-store displays. Last but not least, this drink is getting an image makeover with some fresh new television ads featuring a remix of Will Smith’s “Summertime.”

For those who like the lime flavoring, there’s another Bud Light option to consider – though it’s not technically a beer. The Lime-A-Rita is a sweeter, saltier drink that might translate to a more whimsical occasion or suit the needs of people who tend to like Bud Light but are more in the mood for a cocktail or something different. As Sundet points out, many people like margaritas, but those aren’t the easiest drinks to bring to parties or make away from the kitchen, where you have a blender and a complete set of ingredients. Instead, the Lime-A-Rita fulfills that craving but is easy to transport. He says it’s for the same demographic as Bud Light Lime, but for different kinds of occasions.

The lesson here is clear: A brand’s products should all enforce a consistent image, for a consistent audience and with a consistent price point. Deviating or diversifying too much puts a brand at risk of alienating its audience, splitting their loyalties or confusing them about the nature of your product. If you find yourself in a similar situation, remind your audience why they liked your brand in the first place, but then add a fresh new spin on it to tempt them to give you a shot again – whether it’s issuing a new promotion, launching an edgy campaign or piquing their interest with a complementary product.

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