Saturday, 30 November 2013


Bud Light Platinum

We hosted a birthday bash yesterday evening. The guests were a dozen young men. This means that the slide guitar blues of Elmore James on the stereo did not stand a chance against Kanye West on the iPod; this means that the two pots of jambalaya we spent the morning preparing were either consumed or splattered over the kitchen floor and walls. It was a fun night.

In just two years I will qualify for the seniors’ discount at IHOP. The evening was a reminder that I have become my parents. It was also an opportunity for an adman in a grey Bruce Springsteen hoodie to study the young male demographic up close.

When I was struggling to grow up in Montreal, fashion was a pair of Levi’s and a denim or leather jacket. It was crucially important to me to sartorially resemble Lou Reed or a member of The Clash. Anglophones smoked Player’s cigarettes and drank Molson Export Ale from brown stubby bottles. Francophones smoked Export A cigarettes and drank Labatt 50 Ale from brown stubby bottles.

Last night’s informal Edmonton focus group revealed that current fashion is consignment store chic coupled with expensive rag trade brands I have never heard of nor would I be caught dead in – ass pockets shouldn’t be halfway down the backs of your thighs. White belts are just plain wrong. Nobody smoked, and that is both smart and good. What really intrigued me was the beer that was marched through our front door: Bud Light Platinum.

As I continually bussed the den, the kitchen, the dining room and the living room of empties I kept collecting blue beer containers, oxymoronic aluminum bottles. It struck me kind of funny and completely unnecessary that Bud Light would subtly re-brand itself as Platinum merely because of its trendy, ‘newly innovative’ packaging. Then I glanced at the appliqué type on one blue bottle and saw that Bud Light Platinum was six-per-cent alcohol, binge brew. Counter-intuitively, the brand has regurgitated its equity and consumer goodwill to become a lame anathema of itself.

Bud Light, like Diet Coke, was one of the most innovative brand extensions ever. Both products created new and distinct brands, separate from their parents, and entirely new categories on the shelves of the marketplace. Bud Light has positioned itself as the lynchpin of the penultimate threesome: guys, beer and sports. The overt message was always clear: here’s a manly, low-alcohol beer and you need not feel like a sissy nor a lightweight if you drink it. The covert message was equally so: here’s a manly, low-alcohol beer and you can and probably should pound one or two more beyond moderation and common sense during the big game.

Bud Light high-test swill. What the fuck!?

 Disenchanted whistleblowers aside, no one, no consumer or investor, really expects integrity to exude from the corporations which foist the goods of mass production upon us all. However we should all expect an iota of common sense from the top floor offices, the ones without the long term view. Existing brands and other assets must not be cheaply compromised and devalued for short term gain because next week last night’s fickle guests may well decide that Pabst Blue Ribbon is hipper than Bud Light Platinum.

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