Dan Fox
The views expressed in db Reader do not represent the views of the drinks business.

Why does Bud Light refuse to sell beer?

Fresh from announcing its gay-wedding ad (which, in oddly tokenising fashion, appears not yet to have actually aired on paid major media as promised), Bud Light is now advertising equal pay for women.

That Bud Light so assiduously refuses to sell its beer, preferring to shill one political talking point after another, may seem inexplicable to the average viewer. In fact, though, it’s easy enough to explain.

As we noted a year ago, these ads are the product of an ad agency wholly devoted to… itself. The creators are attention whores, but worse, they crave that attention for themselves, far more than for their clients. Talk value, or social-media buzz, has questionable, if any, correlation to growing sales for a brand. But for ad agencies, buzz increases their odds of winning awards and being seen as “hot.” Brand people who willingly fund an agency’s self-promotion are hopelessly clueless or childishly gullible.

Sooner, but usually later, most brands do finally wake up. As painful experience after painful experience shows, however, it only happens after millions of advertising dollars have gone down the drain. The fundamental truth eventually dawns on even the most gullible: “Buzz ain’t biz,” as we put it when we demonstrated* that Budweiser’s puppy ads sold no beer. Budweiser wasn’t the only big brand to make this discovery after some time.

And now in an ironic buzz-rebuke, it turns out Bud Light disabled buzz-y comments on YouTube about the equal-pay ad. Both sides of the debate had sounded off online with gusto and a good deal of brand-bashing feedback. For the buzz-record, dislikes were outpacing likes by about 10-1. Viewers were apparently pretty annoyed that the beer brand–take your pick–took a political stand at all/minimised the importance of the issue/got its facts wrong/sought to make money off a debate about women’s rights. Unfortunately for Bud Light, this sort of negative buzz apparently can affect sales… negatively.

Epic fail

screen-shot-2016-07-05-at-12-34-58-pmAd-agency self-promotion, misplaced faith in buzz, mixing politics and business are all big mistakes, but none of them represents the Bud Light ad’s most consequential weakness.

In failing to include even a hint of anything provocative or unique about the beer, Bud Light essentially admits it has nothing of substance for sale. And since there’s nothing distinctive for sale, there’s no reason to buy. That’s why Bud Light sales continue to languish, and the needle isn’t moving. Indeed, it hasn’t moved in the right direction since the launch of this buzz-bait campaign several months ago. Contrast this absence of results with stablemate Budweiser’s focus on the many reasons to choose the King of Beers. These ads have paid dividends in measured sales increases. Don’t Anheuser-Busch brands talk to each other?

Buzz’ll get ya 

But if buzz is what motivated Bud Light, they shouldn’t despair. There’ll probably be a minor buzz-spike when the ad agency inevitably gets its walking papers. Which, given the Anheuser-Busch CEO’s focus on real business results, shouldn’t be that far off.

If you clicked on the second of three links earlier in this article, you know we posed a question last August. We asked: Has (Bud Light’s) new agency learned how to sell beer yet?

It seems we have our answer.

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