Michelob a ‘Craft?’

A-B positions Michelob as ‘craft” brand in new ads
Advertising from Anheuser-Bush’s Michelob closely mimics recent spots produced by Boston Beer Co.’s Sam Adams brand, featuring interviews with brewery personnel discussing the beer’s craftsmanship as well as malt and hop selection.

The ads, with the tagline “crafting a better beer” were produced by Michelob’s new ad agency Euro RSCG of Chicago,

“Michelob has always been a connoisseur’s beer, so it has a lot of credibility in that area,” said Keith Levy, A-B’s VP-brand management.

Michelob has long been positioned as A-B’s trade-up option from flagship brew Budweiser and has been used by A-B in the past as a counter to imports during their various surges, particularly in the 1980s to counter the initial rise of Heineken and Corona.

But the specific targeting of craft-beer competitors is a departure for Michelob.

The shift of Michelob to a craft-fighter in part reflects A-B’s burgeoning portfolio of imports, which can compete more directly in that category. It signed a 20-year agreement last year to import InBev’s portfolio of brands such as Stella Artois, Bass Ale and Beck’s. Separately, it cut similar import deals with brands such as Grolsch, Tiger and Budweiser Budvar.

But A-B executives admit candidly that their vast portfolio — which has been bolstered by product introductions, myriad distribution agreements with craft brands and even a few bottled-water and liquor products — has hurt their focus on flagship core brands.

A-B told Wall Street analysts last week that its wholesalers carry 147 brands on average, more than twice as many as they carried five years ago.

Budweiser and Bud Light both will see significant spending increases in 2008, executives said. While Bud Light will continue its long-running sophomoric humor campaign, Budweiser is shifting to a strategy of dubbing itself the “Great American Lager.”

Comments

  1. einhorn says

    I do enjoy Michelob (and always have), and is one of my favorite macros, but please – it is and remains a macro.

  2. crassbrauer says

    Bud is the “Great American Lager” which caused all of us, in rebellious protest against its unexciting blandness and monolithic market share, to begin brewing our own ‘big’ beers. From this perspective, I guess we should be saying “Thank you”. :rolleyes:

  3. tarmadilo says

    crassbrauer wrote: Bud is the “Great American Lager” which caused all of us, in rebellious protest against its unexciting blandness and monolithic market share, to begin brewing our own ‘big’ beers. From this perspective, I guess we should be saying “Thank you”. :rolleyes:

    Amen!

    Cheers, Tim

  4. BrewinLou says

    So if I am Joe consumer how do I tell which Mich left on the shelf is rice and carn and which is all malt? Did they change the packaging at all?

  5. Jephro says

    Well, as they say, “imitation is the highest form of flattery”

    Besides, Craft Beer Drinkers know what “Craft Beer” is anyway. 😎

  6. MikeJordan says

    Oh how I wish it were only that easy…

    “Craft Beer Drinkers know what “Craft Beer” is anyway”

    Instead we have an industry that is having an identity crisis of who/what craft beer is and sticking some sort of “craft” label on beer based upon a “floating” standard in a thriving/growing beer segment.

  7. jesskidden says

    BrewinLou wrote: So if I am Joe consumer how do I tell which Mich left on the shelf is rice and carn and which is all malt? Did they change the packaging at all?

    As I remember the news stories from around last year this time, the marketing guys at A-B proposed in-house that they were going “retro” with Michelob’s packaging, and were returning to a new version of the classic “hourglass” shaped bottled. The “brewing guys” sort of got together and suggested that, well, since they’re going “retro” anyway, why not return to an All Malt recipe, too? (Michelob never contained corn but rice was said to make up 20% of the grain bill, according to Michael Jackson). So, the two changes happened around the same time (last winter), and new labels on the updated bottle say “A Classic All-Malt Lager Brewed with Noble European Aroma Hop Varieties”.

    I am sad to say that I bought a sixpack of this when it first hit the market in NJ (only my second A-B purchase in 3 decades or so- I also popped for the first years’ “Brewmasters Reserve” because I thought, due to A-B’s confused ad copy that it was the undiluted ‘high gravity” Bud.) I still have a bottled of all-malt Michelob, “born on 07 FEB 07” (yeah, haven’t been able to give that one away yet) and was pretty disappointed and thought to myself, “So, they took out the rice portion of the grain bill, AND DIDN’T REPLACE IT WITH ANYTHING?” 😉

    I found it incredibly uninspired (tho’ lots of well-known beer reviewers have given it high marks) all the more so because I once had a GREAT sample of Michelob (free, of course), in the early 80’s at the tour of the Columbus OH brewery- nice and fresh with a beautifully fragrant, hoppy nose- easily the best US style “light lager” I’d ever had up to that point. The fact that I never again had a similar opinion of a Michelob I always attributed to the “urban beer myth” of the time that the long-delayed bottling of Michelob was a “failure” as far as taste was concerned.

    Michelob’s new “craft” identity is in some respects a sort of return to form for A-B. I’ve quoted from the Michelob chapter in A-B’s 100 year anniversary book on the ‘net elsewhere, but thought I’d post the actual pages from the book, for the full take on Anheuser-Busch’s image of Michelob half century ago.

    http://jesskidden.googlepages.com/michelob%2C1953