. The Transom .

Thursday, May 29, 2008

InBev puts Anheuser-Busch reputation to task

Being located in St. Louis, I hear more than the normal amount of chatter regarding the InBev merger with Anheuser-Busch. Some would call it a takeover, but that's just semantics. In my opinion, this deal puts AB's marketing reputation to the test. Should it go through, will Budweiser still be the great American beer? Or will it be the once great American beer that now takes orders from Europe? This also brings up a few questions, most noticeably, does the average beer drinker really care? In the short term my vote is no. The taste of the beer will remain unchanged. The additional distribution channels will make it more available. That's all good. Where AB beer drinkers will start to see change is in the price, and the marketing. Remember how much flak Miller got when it was bought by SAB? AB can no longer play the American marketing game. It won't be credible, and it might even turn some people off.

August Busch IV has openly said he isn't real keen on the idea of a deal with InBev. But the financials make a lot of sense so far and AB shareholders would make a good lump of cash. But the brand would be forever changed. Thus the balancing act that AB must perform: maintain the heritage of the brand, or live by the numbers. As a Cardinals fan, I don't think I could get used to the team playing in InBev Stadium...

(note to all in the know... I'm aware AB no longer owns Busch Stadium. Cut me some creative license slack)

Thursday, May 08, 2008

I work in the Kleenex industry

I was reminded today of how it feels to be Kleenex. You know, the brand name that everyone uses to describe facial tissue. There are other brands in this category of course. Google is quickly becoming one. When telling someone to perform a web search, how many times do we say "just Google it?"

When reading a story about Papa John's selling 23 cent pizzas in Cleveland, I scanned down through the comments. Most of them were benign, saying how great or horrible the pizza was. But a good 25% of them pointed out what great 'free advertising' or 'advertising gimmick' this was for Papa John's. Many cited how the lost revenue from the pizzas would be made up by the free advertising.

Someone show me the advertising that Papa John's is getting from this.

I see a crap-load of publicity, but not a single ad. And that's when I started to feel like my industry was like the branded snot rags. People make use of what we do every day. They count on us, depend on us, expect us to be there. And then they call what we do, 'advertising.' (sigh)

Oh well, back to Googling...

Monday, May 05, 2008

What to do when objectives don't gel with preference

Have you ever wanted a pair of shoes that looked really great, but when you tried them on they hurt like crazy? You then have to make the form vs. function decision. Look great in pain or be comfortable in lesser appealing shoes. Sometimes the same happens in the PR business.

We worked with a cell phone company that was headed by an older guy who loved seeing stories about the company in the newspaper. Loved it. Thought it was the most important coverage. And we scored some really outstanding local and national print coverage for him during our relationship with the organization. But we also got a lot of great local and national broadcast and online placements. In fact, probably three times more than print. And we got ultimately got fired because of it.

The problem was the company, under the direction of its fierce tempered CEO, was entirely focused on newspaper coverage, because that's what the CEO read. Pay no attention to the fact that the very people buying the phones and service plans could barely read, much less sat down to read the paper. The company's consumers listened to the radio, watched TV and went online. In a traditional demographic study, 10% of the target audience group read a paper on a 'semi-regular' basis. Yet that's where we were instructed to target our efforts, with the objective of increasing sales.

When brought up, countless times, that this was not in the best interest of the company objectives, we were told to just bring in the print because that's what was important, statistics be damned. And because we constantly fought for a little thing I like to call 'reality' we ended up losing the business and the relationship.

When it comes to marketing 'shoes' you can only last in the painful eye-catchers for so long. And you'll know when that time comes. It's when you have to walk the talk. The rest is just show and tell.

thanks to Jon Sloane for the idea