Tuesday, July 15, 2008

This InBev's for you!

Does foreign ownership of Anheuser-Busch dull the luster of the Budweiser brand? It shouldn't. 

It shouldn't because it's just a matter of stock ownership, right? 
It shouldn't because the new owners are Belgian – real beer people who own Stella and Beck's. It's not like Bud got bought by the French. 

Foreign ownership shouldn't harm the Bud brand because every beer drinker – 
no matter how marinated – knows that globalization blurs every industry into a tangle of cross-border partnerships, right? 

It shouldn't matter because the newly combined company is called Anheuser-Busch InBev and has Bud as its "flagship brand." Right? 

So it shouldn't matter that Bud is foreign-owned. It shouldn't... But it does! C'mon, of course it does! 

Consider the American ballyhoo associated with Bud – the New England winter scenes, the Super Bowl ads, the Busch family testimonials, the St. Louis roots. Being American is part of the brand's (now eroding) essence. 

Picture a long row of tall Buds lined up on a Montana bar. Now that a Belgian company owns Bud, any rugged individual cowboy can – with absolute impunity – switch his brew to Corona – and no one will dare question his brotherhood. Plus, this guy may get around to drinking a Sam Adams and finally discover the taste of good beer. 



Todd said...

Claude, my first reaction to the buyout announcement was one of horror. Budweiser no longer American! What's next, apple pie? Then I recalled an episode some 15 years ago and my feelings changed.

I was in a piano bar in Oslo, drinking heavily and listening to an American expat piano player from Georgia treat the audience to versions of American classics by The Eagles, Otis Redding and others. The mostly Norwegian audience not only enjoyed this distinctly American music, they enthusiastically sang all the words (louder and louder as the evening wore on, not unexpectedly). It was nearing midnight when my brothers and I realized it was July 3rd and that at the witching hour it'd be our Independence Day. We decided we would order a round of Budweisers and shots of Jack Daniels and considered what song we would request of the Georgian piano player (whom we had befriended by that point). We settled on American Pie, because it seemed to us both the most American song we could think of and also exactly the sort of thing the local Norwegians had been belting out all night (we could just envision their rousing chorus of "Bye Bye, Miss American Pie...).

We said to our piano friend, "You know it's almost the 4th of July?" to which he responded, "Oh, my God, I've been here so long, I'd forgotten. What should I play?" We replied, "We've given it a lot of thought. We think American Pie." His eyes lit up. "Perfect."

All that was left was our drink order. We beckoned our lovely waitress and said that we'd like Buds and shots of Jack. She looked at us like we were from Mars. They had no such things. We were distraught but pressed on, settling for another round of ales and Acquavit. At least we had our song.

At midnight, the piano player turned to his audience and said, "My friends here reminded me that it's our Independence Day in America. So forgive us for a moment while we celebrate with a little song." He then tickled the keys and offered up the soft first lines, "Long, long time ago..."

And the crowd went wild.

Through it's full 8 minutes the audience sang and we enjoyed every minute of our most memorable 4th of July.

And then when it was over, the piano player went further than we had anticipated, transitioning directly into "God Bless America."

We had to sing along, of course, but were aware of our American ugliness for the first time and really wished we'd had those Buds and Jack to wash it down.

So if InBev slathers Europe in Budweiser so that I might indulge my American-ness at times like these, I'm all for it!

brandsinger said...

Ha ha - great story, Todd. Thanks. Another novelist here, obviously. We're supposed to focus on branding and instead we're holding a Hemmingway fest.

Kula bácsi said...

Well Budweiser is like horse urine, so to say.