Just in time for the May 2-4 weekend: Molson Canadian – meet Budweiser “American”

Last week I received an email from a former marketing class student about Budweiser beer reportedly changing the name on cans over the summer from “Budweiser” to “America”. She thought for sure it was a hoax, or at the very least a publicity stunt meant to garner headlines for an established brand in a mature category fighting for every last incremental decimal sales increase. On the latter point, she was correct, but evidently the plan to change the name is real. Go figure, only in America.


The campaign, called “America is in Your Hands,” will run from May 23 through November and will include on cans and bottles passages ranging from Pledge of Allegiance to lyrics from “The Star Spangled Banner” and “America the Beautiful.” It will all fall into the hands of a drinking public bracing itself for a presidential election unlike any before it. The new cans and bottles will include images like a magnified view of the Statue of Liberty’s torch and Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls. It’s important to note that Budweiser has ventured into this patriotic territory before. Following the 911 attacks, they showed in a commercial, Clydesdales crossing the Brooklyn Bridge pausing by the World Trade Center.

Within hours of the news breaking, FOX quoted Donald Trump saying he took the name change as an endorsement for his campaign. Perhaps someone should inform the Donald that he hasn’t yet trademarked the term America, but whatever…

Not withstanding the fact that Budweiser’s beer sales will likely tank in Canada this summer, they no doubt will climb in certain parts of the US, since the new brand name will resonate with many, despite political connotations otherwise. Indeed we have had Molson “Canadian” for years, and it has served the company well.

My point this week however is about how Trump attached himself to the headline. Budweiser was all over the news, and he grabbed yet another opportunity to ride their coat tales. Love him or hate him, the man knows how to get publicity.

Publicity is “earned media” – that stuff you get for free, usually the benefactor of the broad reach of an established players broadcast or print footprint. Here are 3 ways to leverage headlines for publicity gain:

1. Monitor the news. Follow what is gaining momentum, and if you can, attach yourself to it while the item is taking off. Headlines are usually short lived, so you need to act fast.

2. Be creative. Use play on words, tap a common held inference, or be slightly sensationalized or unbelievable. Keep in mind whatever you do must make sense for your brand and be in keeping with your values and culture. Otherwise you risk being seen as unauthentic and chasing the headline purely for monetary gain.

3. Be provocative. Newsmakers and the internet love controversy. The trick with using shock headlines is to always be able to back it up with substance.

When Prince George was born a couple summers ago to Kate and William, and the Royal family, newsmakers went nuts. It was an absolute publicity gift to baby industry businesses in Prince George BC, in fact, any business in Prince George BC. I wrote about it on this blog that week, but largely the opportunity was lost, except for a few government officials capitalizing on it. However Tourism Las Vegas did pick up on the news. Hot on the heels of Uncle Harry’s Vegas indiscretions, they declared in an ad “Congratulations on the Royal Addition. See you in 21 years!” The ad of course was paid, but the media publicity hype and coverage they garnered around it for a well-played inference was brilliant. They attached themselves to the news item and gained far more coverage then what they paid for.

Vegas_PrinceGeorgeThat’s my point with all this. In an age where earned media can give your brand tremendous reach, and then further give you the golden gift of that earned media being infinitely shareable on social media to earn word of mouth, I think it’s worth our while to leverage news headlines where we can.





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Mary Charleson

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