Bud Light beer, the nation’s largest brewer, has updated it packaging design, the first time in eight years. No longer are their letters on their packaging slanted to the right with a crescent looking grey and red semicircles highlight the brand. The previous design lasted from January 2013.  Now the brand has straightened it white letters and enlarged them to. In addition, they added content with the term “Brewed Using the Best Barley Malt…”

The letters AB indicating the company owner, Anheuser-Busch are located in the center of the can and spelled out at the bottom.

Their design is still blue, almost going to a royal blue with big white letters. The flair of red is gone.

The company claims they sell 20,000 Bud Lights every minute. The changes are not going to be easy. According to the December 17th, 2015 of Ad Age noted that the (A)gencies working on the packaging overhaul include W&K and global design agency Jones Knowles Ritchie.”

The design has changed several times, going back from the product rolling out in 1981 starting with calling them “Budweiser Light” in a red white can similar to “Budweiser”.

This will be interesting to see how well the market responds. Working in an extremely busy supermarket, I see what beer sells well and I get to speak with customers and distributers and I can report this: The smaller breweries and micro companies are gaining more of the beer market share. Companies like New Belgium, Sam Adams and Sierra Nevada, just to name three are doing well because they have variety and a story that is depicted on their packaging. For example, New Belgium’s Fat Tire Amber Ale beer, Slow Ride and Ranger have cool pictures that the customer can stare at and maybe build a connection with the consumer.

In addition, even smaller micro breweries like Gainesville’s Stump Knocker and First Magnitude’s Ale are dominating the local markets. Despite the fact that a six-pack cans of First Magnitude sell for $9.99, consumers are buying them because they taste good and want to support the local community.

Also, I see less expensive beers like Natural Ice and Natural Ice literally fly off the shelf. The cheaper brands cost about $3.75 for a four back, but consumers, typically lower income will quickly grab them off the shelf. The brand design is not fancy, it is that the price is right and beer is in the can.

Disruption is here, to borrow the term from entrepreneur and author of “Disrupt You”  Jay Samit in the beer market. At Publix and other supermarkets, some beer is stocked on a shelf instead of a freezer, because of all the new players in the beer market. The New Belgium’s and First Magnitude’s of the world are passionate about their packaging and telling a story.

Yes, Bud Light has its football stadiums and you can buy 24-packs for about twenty bucks, and sell particularly well during football season, but they are flying off the shelves any more.

Thus large beer companies must ask themselves. “Are they selling beer or are they selling stories? A story creates a connection with a consumer. People love stories and we hate the person who talks all about themselves and how good they are, which is why beers like New Belgium brand tell a story instead of about themselves.

I’m not an avid beer drinker, but when I do I grab one or two New Belgium Fat Tire. I loved riding my bike and long to do so more frequently that I gravitated to the bottle. Companies like Publix and Fresh Market allow you to purchase single beers, which is great for someone who doesn’t want to guzzle a six-pack and leave it crowding out the fridge. Bud light needs to sell single beer bottles too. Not doing so alienates the market and potential customers.

Bud Light is a good tasting beer, but is not good enough to offset the decrease in sales. In my opinion, is that their message is not reaching millennials effectively. It needs to tell a story to make a connection. Another thing to think about: 40% of the jobs by 2020 will be entrepreneurs, according to Taylor Pearson’s book  The End of Jobs: Money, Meaning and Freedom Without the 9 to 5.

How many of the new entrepreneurs are going to be craft beer manufacturers and disrupt the market? My guess is a lot and many of them will promote their stories via social media or the tons of other online avenues promote and market their product.

Will the new blue cans work for Bud Light?  I’m not sure . Although I think simplicity in packaging along with straight upright letters is a good design strategy it is possible that Bud Light needs story telling, not about its product, but, rather about its consumers.

 

 

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