AB InBev’s Weird Super Bowl Message

AB InBev (ABI) had an agenda going into the Super Bowl: make sure everyone watching would learn that Bud Light doesn’t use corn syrup. This was one of several spots making the point:

As is the case with most Super Bowl ads, it’s overproduced and the joke becomes labored as it drags on, but it’s not bad. ABI has identified an unpopular ingredient and name-checked competitors using it. But there are two things about this ad that make me go 🤔. First, let’s look at another ad in the series. 

Bud Light has launched its pointed barb on this proposition that this is a checkmate argument: “our competitors use corn syrup, but we use rice.” Maybe!

But here’s another possibility. Bud Light occupies space in a declining segment tarnished by what consumers see as a tired category of cheaply-made industrial swill. This is not the case with all pale lagers: Mexican lagers have shown great strength, despite being effectively indistinguishable from American light lagers. The Bud Light message, then, actually seizes on that tarnished image to claim some arguable high ground: “sure, most light lagers are industrial swill made with cheap ingredients, but not ours.” (Or more properly, “but ours is made with a different added lightener.”)

It’s generally a bad idea to try to drag a category down to elevate one player. And that’s especially true since the problem with Bud Light is structural—the entire domestic light lager category is in freefall. Pointing out its less-savory features is not a long term strategy for the leading brand in that category. But there’s an even bigger problem. ABI makes more than Bud Light:

 

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In conclusion: “rice is great and corn is terrible unless it’s used in one of our other products.” I don’t see any problems with this message. 

Jeff Alworth4 Comments