I love puppies. I even have one named Pippin, a 10 month old Labradoodle. But I didn’t love Budweiser’s Super Bowl Puppy spot nearly as much as “Brewed the Hard Way,” the brand’s step child spot that ran shortly after the beginning of the second half.
Judging by a bunch of articles on the blogosphere today, I am in the minority. However, as someone who speaks to the majority “consumer” quite frequently, what the majority of critics fail to realize is that they are the minority of people in this country. Drive a hundred miles from any major metropolis and I’ll show you more bars than you can count where Budweiser reigns unchallenged as the King of Beers.
Critics, this ad wasn’t about you. “Brewed the Hard Way” was about “normal” people that don’t work in the ad industry, don’t have hip facial hair or wear skinny jeans. The ad was about Sara Palin’s Joe the Plumber. It was about the America where craft beer only represents 8% of the market. Yes, it’s a growing 8% and that’s where the excitement of the category is, but it’s still just 8%.
The Budweiser ad works for consumers on several levels:
- It’s honest. Consumers prize authenticity and honesty from all brands – not just the small ones. Big brands can and should acknowledge the competition sometimes. Microbrews are here to stay. Why ignore what everyone already knows?
- It’s polarizing. When the spot aired, I could visualize millions of Budweiser-drinking consumers giving each other high-fives across the bar. Perhaps it’s overdue, but the spot speaks to the core. It is not going to change the minds of hipster craft beer sipping Millennials but who cares? There are plenty of other Millennials who need more than puppies to understand a brand. They will take note and maybe think twice the next time they buy beer.
- It revives a classic debate. Whether it’s Bud versus micro brews or Bud versus Miller, consumers love to feel like they have made the best choice. The spot gives them more confidence to do so.
With “Brewed the Hard Way,” I sense that Budweiser abandoned trying to outsmart its customers. Budweiser drinkers know what they want and when they want it. When a company is unafraid to really listen, that’s what I call refreshment.
Jonathan Schneider is a consumer behavior expert. He is the CEO of Talk Show Research and has conducted qualitative research for ad agencies such as BBDO, Arnold, TBWA\Chiat\ Day, and major brands such as Burger King, Coca-Cola, P&G, Nestle, and Kraft.