Beer advertising is designed to make a brand mentally available so it pops quickly to mind during purchase and to improve what a potential buyer expects from that brand.
This ad has generated a lot of attention on the news and gotten over 8 million views on You Tube. The ad is doing its job to make Budweiser more mentally available.
But how does the ad change what a potential buyer expects from buying and drinking the brand?
Since the ad’s release coincided with Trump’s immigration restrictions, Trump foes may take heart in the tale of immigrant struggle and success, and Trump fans may be upset. Those who like the story will expect to like the beer and those who don’t like the story will expect to not like the beer. Expectations have a big impact on purchase and, in fact, on experience. However heavy beer drinkers may not be the most sensitive political observers, in other words, they may not pay much attention to that aspect of the ad.
If we ignore the story’s relevance to the immigration debate, what does the commercial communicate about how it feels to drink Budweiser? We see Adolphus Busch tossed from his bunk in rough seas, confronted by people angry at arriving foreigners, jumping into the river to escape a burning paddle-wheel, trudging through mud and cold, and finally welcomed to St. Louis.
At one point, the person treating Busch’s wounds asks in German, “Why leave Germany?” Busch answers in English, “I want to brew a beer.” The viewer has to think it odd that Busch would have to leave Germany to brew beer. There must be more to the story.
Throughout the somber tale, viewers see Busch’s fierce drive and determination.
If what was being sold was a challenge to be endured to attain some pleasant result like taking medicine, exercising, education, or even cleaning a drain, the commercial would make sense. But beer is fun and friendship and not something to be suffered through to get to a better place. Maybe you’ve earned the fun and friendship because of your work (“For all you do, this Bud’s for you.”), however the beer is the reward not the struggle.
The ad is a small sample of the experience of drinking Budweiser. This ad does not lead to an expectation of fun and friendship. Instead, Budweiser seems a beer for fiercely determined loners who let nothing stop their dreams.
This story of immigrant struggle and success may win Budweiser some friends but sales may not follow.