AB InBev has been hindered by marketing missteps this past month as it attempts to address an alarming Achilles heel in its portfolio.
And now with AB InBev’s second attempt at launching Bud Light in the UK stumbling out of the blocks, it will be a serious up hill challenge for Bud Light to gain a foothold.
Bud Light, brewed by AB InBev, has recently been introduced into the UK market as the company aims to consolidate its position as a the world’s largest brewer.
However, rather than relying on the likes of wall to wall advertising coverage or large in-store promotions, Bud Light’s marketing team embarked on a guerrilla campaign that saw Bud Light emblazoned 4X4s park up in city centres and distribute free samples.
While this would usually be a sure fire way to attract consumer attention, especially in a country where beer is so loved, it hit immediate and embarrassing snags.
In Liverpool, it was soon discovered that some of the beer had been handed out to homeless people.
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Those living on the streets are especially vulnerable to vices that offer brief respite from their situation, and alcoholism is a common affliction.
While AB InBev was not targeting rough sleepers, it is in stark contrast to the promotion of responsible drinking that the company claims it is committed to.
Further north in Newcastle, the same campaign came under fire for handing out free beer in the city streets during school holidays.
Once again, despite underage drinkers and other vulnerable people not being the target of the campaign, the apparent brazenness of handing out free samples meant that it is impossible to know for sure whether these products ended up in the hands of those it shouldn’t.
AB InBev’s direct effort to get Bud Light into the hands of UK consumers betrays the desperate need to push the re-launch of the Bud Light brand in the market.
An initial attempt in 1999 failed to make an impact, so a new approach is being applied.
However, the UK market is a supremely tough nut to crack for light beers.
Almost as a rule, UK beer drinkers do not take to light beer products as readily as in the US.
In both these cases, the Bud Light team did fall foul of certain regulations, with Newcastle City Council fining the promotion team for “distributing branded materials without a permit” and sending them on their way.
Meanwhile in Liverpool, the branded 4×4 there was also removed from the area, in this case for not having permission to park in the high street.
The damage had, however, already been done.