“The Perfect Beer for (Insert Anything Here)”: Bud Light and Empty Claims

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to thisWhile visiting Northeastern Ohio over the holidays, I came across cans of Bud Light that were customized in Cleveland Browns colors. The cans featured the following slogan:

“The Perfect Beer for Being Dawg Pound Proud”

Bud Light loves the Browns!
Bud Light loves the Browns!

(For those that may not know, the Dawg Pound is the nickname for the bleacher seats behind the east end zone of FirstEnergy Stadium, where the most fervent Browns fans congregate.)

My first reaction to this slogan was that it couldn’t have been written by anyone familiar with the team. I’ve been a Browns fan all my life, and “proud” is not a word we’re using these days. “Justifiably outraged” is more like it; the Browns have just one winning season in the last 13, and have lost 18 of their last 21 games.

My second reaction was: “Really, Bud Light? We’re not supposed to believe you’re huge Browns fans, are we?”

Of course not. Bud Light is an official NFL sponsor, and developed a series of 28 team-specific cans for this season. In Detroit, for example, the cans bear Lions colors and the slogan, “The perfect beer for being the motor behind the Motor City.”

Bud Light is clearly not hanging its hat on any one team. So an initiative like this just makes Bud Light seem cloying and insincere.

A Solid Claim Stands Up to Scrutiny

A true Cleveland beer (and one of my favorites).

Plus there’s no proof: Why exactly is Bud Light the perfect beer for being Dawg Pound proud? You could ponder this for days and not find a valid reason. A beer from a Cleveland-based brewery would be more appropriate; allow me to suggest the Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald Porter.

Of course, this is just an extension of Bud Light’s “The Perfect Beer for…” campaign, in which damn near everything has been substituted after those first four words. And that’s the problem.

Bud Light makes an empty, meaningless claim. This points to one reason that microbrews continue to gain share on the majors – the micros tend to believably stand for something. (Authentic local roots is just one angle the micros can take.)

In brand and marketing strategy, it’s important to make clear claims. But it’s just as important to make sure those claims are credible. Attempting to ingratiate yourself to your market with empty claims rarely works.

Don’t make Bud Light’s mistake. Before you get to deep into 2016, take a good, objective look at the claims in your own marketing communications. If they’re not credibly airtight, they’re probably not working – and they need to be fixed.

About Matthew Fenton: Matthew helps challenger brands to focus, grow and win.  Since founding his consultancy, Three Deuce Branding, in 1997, he’s helped hundreds of brands to achieve “brand clarity.”  His consulting services and speaking engagements help brands to focus on what matters through positioning, strategy and ideation.  Contact Matthew here.  He calls Chicago home.

Copyright 2016 – Matthew Fenton. All Rights Reserved. You may reprint this article with the original, unedited text intact, including the About Matthew Fenton section.