While 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”
(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 upon reading that 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, right?”
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
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 is making an empty claim, and one that is easily judged as such. 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 differentiating or working – and they need to be fixed.
About Matthew Fenton: Matthew founded Three Deuce Branding in 1997 with a simple mission: “To help good people build great brands.” He’s a former CMO who repeatedly led underdog brands to dramatically outpace the market, and now he does the same for the clients he serves. Businesses and brands trust Matthew to help them achieve “brand clarity” through core brand strategy and positioning. Matthew is also a highly-rated speaker. Contact Matthew here. He’s based in Chicago.
Copyright 2016 – Matthew Fenton. All Rights Reserved. You may reprint this article with the original, unedited text intact, including the About Matthew Fenton section.