That Super Bowl Ad


There are two kinds of customers that come into our place, & I can often tell what category someone falls into as soon as they walk in the door.  It usually has to do with how they move.  There are those who take their time, look around, want to scope everything out, ask questions.  They tend to move slowly, contemplate decisions.  Maybe they’re new to this & want some suggestions, or tried something they really liked & are looking for something similar, or want to know what’s new.  They’re frequently open to trying something different & know we have plenty of “different”. 

Then there are those who walk in the door, walk straight to the cooler, grab their brand, usually a 12-pack or tallboys, & head straight to the register.  They move quickly, deliberately, & only hesitate if they’re having a hard time visually locating their staple.  The latter group I’ll refer to as “monovores”; the former, “polyvores”.   Monovores know what they like & stick to it.  Why complicate things?  Polyvores want to expand & see what’s out there.  Maybe they’re just breaking into the wide world of beer, or maybe they’re already craft drinkers & are just mulling over the myriad options presented to them.  If you’re reading this, you probably know who you are.

I choose the (made-up) term “polyvore” as opposed to “omnivore” because a polyvore doesn’t necessarily drink everything.  They do, however, deviate from course at least once in a while.  Maybe someone drinks Classic Ice 90% of the time, but will pick up a Pumking in fall, or a Framboise once in a while.  They’re a polyvore.  And there are no craft drinkers who aren’t polyvores, who stick to just Abita Turbo Dog & nothing else, for instance.  Monovores can become polyvores, but the transition almost never works the other way.

We all know that ad - the one Budweiser aired during the Super Bowl.  That ad pissed a lot of people off.  Hell, it still kind of pisses me off.  But I don’t think it was designed to piss people off, at least not in the way it seemed.  It was aimed at the monovores, and was a call to arms, an appeal to the core.  It aimed to divide, celebrating “us” by contrasting and alienating “them”.    It’s a tactic used in politics constantly, by the Tea Party AND the Occupy movement.  This ad was a rally, a DNC or RNC.  The Two Americas.  This is why you like us, this is what we stand for.  This is why you are us.  And not them

Polyvores (like me) bristled at being classified as an “other”, dismissed wholesale as being ponderous & navel-gazing.  But it really wasn’t saying anything negative about craft beer, just reaffirming what everyone knows already & throwing it into sharp relief, proudly.  “This is what we’re about, take it or leave it.  THEY can do what they want.  That’s not US, man.”  And it’s nothing that the craft beer movement hasn’t done a MILLION times already.  How many times have you heard that craft beer is “not just for getting drunk” or “not just to slam”, which implies that pale American lager IS those things.  American lager still has a flavor, & people drink it for plenty of reasons more dignified than the craft world gives them credit.  Since its birth, craft brewing has had to paint big beer as an “other” to sell itself & gain exposure.  To some extent, this implicated big beer’s fans by association, & there’s at least as much of a vibe of exclusion in the perception of craft beer – what it isn’t– than trying to appeal to the monovores.  “We don’t drink like THOSE idiots.  WE CARE about how our beer tastes.”

This ad gives the polyvores a taste of their own medicine.  But it’s also a validation that the “other” is significant enough to be worth reinforcing the division.  Craft is a threat, & big beer needs to rally the base.  By implicitly acknowledging the threat (& by being dicks about it), Budweiser may have actually opened a few people up to craft.  Believe it or not, since that ad aired we’ve gotten requests for Budweiser Pumpkin Peach Beer from people who like the sound of it!  I’m sorry, Budweiser doesn’t make a pumpkin peach beer, BUT can I suggest… 

I find that comedians can often make my point in a way more poignant & succinct way.  Patton Oswalt’s one of my favorites, & one of his most known bits is skewering KFC’s Famous Bowls.  This bit got so much traction that a magazine interviewing the CEO of Yum Brands (which owns KFC) asked how he felt about Patton calling the menu item a “failure pile in a sadness bowl”; the CEO gave a blithe response about how he wishes Mr. Oswalt could “see the smile on people’s faces when they dig into one of our Famous Bowls”.  In a follow-up bit, Patton recounted this interview, with the quip that “I’m actually on the CEO’s side.  All he had to do was say, ‘Who the f*** is Patton Oswalt?  I’m a BILLIONAIRE!’”  See the parallel?  He says it so much better than I do.  I wonder if Budweiser did themselves a disservice by not just continuing to ignore the threat & pretend it didn’t exist, at least on a marketing level.  It’s still the status quo & may have just rocked its own boat.  “Don’t think about a pink elephant, Bud fans.”

Two other points before I wrap this up:  The ad wasn’t hypocritical.  It was an ad for Budweiser, not Anheuser-Busch InBev (& its acquired ex-craft brands).  It was just promoting the “us, not them” angle while a whole bunch of “them” happened to be watching.  And yes, the “brewed the hard way” slogan is bullshit, as illustrated by this counter-ad.

Thanks for tuning in for another timely blog post.  We’re happy to accommodate both the polys & the monos, & trust that you know where you stand.
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