Marketing Campaign Case Studies

Saturday, February 23, 2008


Anheuser-Busch introduced two new beers to its Budweiser family in 1995. Bud Ice and Bud Ice Light were both ‘‘ice brewed’’ by pumping the beer through ice chambers during the brewing process. Both varieties of Bud Ice were packaged in distinctive long-necked bottles shaped to look and feel like a handful of ice cubes. To inaugurate its newest product, as well as to bolster Bud Ice in the competitive ice beer market, Anheuser-Busch selected the San Francisco-based ad agency Goodby, Silverstein, & Partners to develop an advertising campaign that would reflect the values of the fledgling brand and that would appeal to viewers through creative, memorable, and entertaining commercials. The resulting ‘‘Oh, and Beware of the Penguins’’ campaign, which featured slightly sinister penguins, was launched during the Super Bowl on January 28, 1996. Since that first spot garnered almost immediate positive responses from both consumers and critics, Anheuser-Busch continued with the campaign. Over the next two years, the ‘‘Penguins’’ campaign was expanded to include other television commercials, as well as ads on billboards and trucks. Additionally, marketing teams dressed as penguins turned up in bars handing out samples of the beverage.
The television ‘‘Penguins’’ spots all featured tuxedoclad penguins that went to edgy extremes to steal people’s Bud Ice. The spots, which parodied movie genres, included such commercials as ‘‘Penguin Express,’’ in which a film-noir-type detective was frightened in his train car by a Bud Ice-seeking penguin who sang the refrain from the classic Frank Sinatra song ‘‘Strangers in the Night’’ in a nasal-toned ‘‘Dooby Dooby Doo.’’ In another commercial, this time spoofing horror movies, a suburban couple was terrified by a penguin’s crank calls from their upstairs bedroom. The bird, of course, wanted their ice beer. In 1997 Anheuser-Busch released an ad that portrayed the thieving penguin making off with the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup trophy. ‘‘Jungle’’ told the tale of jungle explorers who made the mistake of resting and drinking a Bud Ice. Spear-pointing natives captured the party, lashed them to stakes, and used the Bud Ice to summon their penguin god, which they did by chanting ‘‘Dooby Dooby Doo’’ and placing the beer on a shrine before a roaring fire. At the close of each ad, viewers were advised to ‘‘Drink Bud Ice . . . But Beware of the Penguins.’’
Anheuser-Busch chose the quirky and slightlythreatening penguin as its mascot for Bud Ice to target the company’s professed target market—the ‘‘contemporary adult’’ aged 21 to 34 years old. Moreover, using a bird instead of a person to promote its beer allowed Budweiser to reach across race and gender lines to appeal to a wide audience of potential Bud Ice drinkers. The campaign and its high-visibility tie-ins, such as Bud Ice’s partnership as the ‘‘official beer’’ of the National Hockey League, helped propel Bud Ice and Bud Ice Light to become the highest-selling ice brand in the United States.

Anheuser-Busch, the world’s largest brewery with a history dating back to the 1860s, originally launched an ice draft brand in 1994. The beer, which was added to Anheuser-Busch’s vast repertoire of beers—including Budweiser, Bud Light, Michelob, and the nonalcoholic O’Doul’s—was first marketed under the more cumbersome name Ice Draft from Budweiser. This brand met with stiff competition from other brewers and did not fare as well as expected, partially because Budweiser’s contribution to the ice genre contained 5 percent alcohol instead of the 5.5 percent alcohol of other ice draft brands. In addition, shortly after Ice Draft from Budweiser was released, Anheuser-Busch’s competitors hurried their own versions to the shelves. Miller Brewing Company, Budweiser’s chief competitor, introduced six ice beers. Although Ice Draft from Budweiser was the best-selling ice beer in 1994, its market share was eclipsed by Miller’s total line of ice drafts. Anheuser-Busch expected to sell 3.5 million barrels but actually realized sales of only 2.5 million barrels in the highly competitive market.
Rather than abandon the concept, however, Anheuser-Busch chose to repackage and relaunch the brew as Bud Ice in 1995. Bud Ice Light was released the same year. The new formulation had the higher alcohol content of its rivals and was bottled to look as if the glass container were sculpted out of ice. But even more important to the brand’s success was the estimated $35 million Anheuser-Busch dedicated to promoting Bud Ice.

Bud Ice and Bud Ice Light were targeted at what Anheuser-Busch termed the ‘‘contemporary adult,’’ who ranged in age from 21 to 34 years old. More specifically, though, the brand sought to appeal to a group ‘‘a little younger than the mainstream—to people from 21 to 27,’’ according to Advertising Age. These young adults represented the pinnacle of the market for breweries. Not only were 20-somethings bigger beer consumers, they were also more liable to form their life-long brand preferences during this decade of their lives. A spokesman for one of Budweiser’s competitors, Miller Brewing Company, told Beverage World that ‘‘the most evolving dynamic is the 21- to 30-year group . . . it would take a lot of pounding away to try to accomplish a [brand] switch [after that age].’’
Budweiser knew from its experience with the wildly successful Budweiser frogs and wise-cracking lizards that humor worked well to attract this younger target audience. Bob Lachky, vice president of Budweiser brands, explained to Advertising Age that ‘‘the only way to appeal to [this demographic group] was with something off-beat and a little edgy.’’ The cute but malicious singing penguins fit this bill neatly and indeed were like nothing else on television.
Budweiser was also aware that by focusing the campaign on penguin mascots it could obtain a competitive boost without offending or excluding any group, which was a risk run by ads featuring real people. Although young men by far consumed more beer than any other group, Anheuser-Busch had only recently abandoned its more sexist ads that featured scantily-clad women as barroom objects of desire for beer-guzzling men. After an outcry from women (who were drinking more beer with each passing year of the 1980s and 1990s), as well as from trade publications such as Advertising Age (which in 1993 condemned most beer ads for using women to ‘‘represent sexual imagery and nothing else’’), Anheuser-Busch changed its strategies. ‘‘Treating women as objects is not in tune with today’s markets,’’ Lachky told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Beer campaigns that relied on animal mascots rather than party scenes did not run the risk of excluding women from their appeal.
The penguins did provide Bud Ice and Bud Ice Light with an abundance of personality. Bud Ice brand manager, Michael La Broad, emphasized to USA Today that the ‘‘beauty of the [Penguins] campaign is that it’s memorable.’’ Analysts concurred that the ‘‘critter ads’’ had sufficient wit and entertainment value to reach both 20-something Generation Xers and aging baby boomers, an impressive sweep for a beer campaign. Moreover, by cleverly parodying standard film tropes, each commercial allowed the brand to capitalize on the popularity, image, and hip campiness of the various genres the campaign spoofed.

Bud Ice and Bud Ice Light faced stiff competition from every major brewer (as well as many minor brewers) in the United States. When Anheuser-Busch launched its Ice Draft from Budweiser, it quickly encountered nearly 40 competitors. Foremost among these was Miller Brewing Company, which released six ice beers in 1994 and 1995. Ice Draft from Budweiser was originally released to compete with cold-filtered Miller Genuine Draft. As Bud Ice, it clashed with Miller’s Icehouse, which was advertised in corporate identity spots produced by BBDO Worldwide, Toronto. Miller also sought to win over the coveted 20-something target market. One of the early Icehouse spots showed two bodysurfers in a mosh pit trying unsuccessfully to swim over the crowd to get to the bar. In response, a waitress—with a tray of perfectly balanced Ice House beer—was passed over the audience to reach them. The Milwaukee-based company spent more than $26 million promoting its Lite Ice beer in 1994 alone.
Beyond its specific ice draft competitors, Bud Ice initially had to struggle to keep the entire ice draft category afloat. This new beer category saw its sales fluctuate widely, and sometimes its very existence seemed tenuous. But by 1996 the market had begun to steady, and ice beers came to account for 5 percent of the 190 million barrel U.S. beer market. But the market faced encroachment from a new source. Trendy microbreweries and smaller national breweries like Samuel Adams vied for Bud Ice’s young and brandconscious target market. Moreover, other major breweries—
Miller and Coors Brewing Company, among others—always remained poised to capture any unguarded share of Budweiser’s leading position in the market.

In 1997 Bud Ice’s use of the penguin resulted in a lawsuit filed by a Miami clothing maker, Supreme International, which alleged that Anheuser-Busch stole that company’s signature bird trademark. ‘‘Now I know what it’s like to be kicked in the stomach by a Clydesdale,’’ said Supreme’s chairman, George Feldenkreis, referring to the mammoth horses that had served for decades as Budweiser’s signature image.

Anheuser-Busch first confined its television advertising efforts for Bud Ice to sports-oriented programming. A USA Today poll revealed that as of July 15, 1996, Bud Ice’s ‘‘Penguin’’ ads were resoundingly popular, yet had been seen by only 30 percent of the viewers quizzed for the survey. The reason for this discrepancy was that Anheuser-Busch ran the commercials only during televised sporting events that ‘‘reached a young, affluent audience.’’ ‘‘Penguins’’ spots did appear regularly on local and cable sports programming, including ESPN, the preeminent sports broadcasting station in the country. As the campaign caught on, however, Budweiser attempted to reach a wider audience. ‘‘Penguins’’ commercials ran on programs such as Saturday Night Live, the Late Show with David Letterman, and Mad TV, as well as on the VH-1 music video network.
As the television campaign gained momentum,
Anheuser-Busch devoted more time and money to socalled on-premise activity, referring to promotions carried out at locations (most notably bars) at which alcohol is sold and consumed ‘‘on the premise.’’ In late 1996 marketing teams dressed in tuxedos turned up in bars giving out Bud Ice-icles, which were plastic icicles that customers could use to add a bright color and a fruity taste to their bottled Bud Ice. Flavors included ‘‘Brain Freeze,’’ ‘‘Ice-otope,’’ and ‘‘Kiss My Face.’’ Anheuser-Busch also sought to draw in more of its key market with promotional tie-ins with the National Hockey League (NHL) and other regional hockey associations, such as the East Coast Hockey League and the American Hockey League. Jim Schumacker, marketing chief for Bud Light and Bud Ice, revealed to Brandweek that Bud Ice’s marketing strategy was two-pronged. ‘‘We’ve got two thrusts,’’ he said. ‘‘Equity in the penguin has been very strong in the contemporary-adult market, as has equity in the National Hockey League.’’ Since the NHL itself targeted the same contemporary young adult male demographic, the link was natural. In one television commercial that illustrated the dual strategies of the ‘‘Penguins’’ campaign, a Bud Ice penguin stole the Stanley Cup, the National Hockey League’s championship trophy. In addition to these national efforts, Anheuser-Busch also strove to bring the ‘‘Penguins’’ campaign into key regional markets. For instance, Florida—home of two NHL teams—proved to be essential to Bud Ice because of the success Miller’s Icehouse had achieved in that market. The ubiquitous penguin made personal appearances throughout the state (dressed for the sunny climate in sandals and sunglasses) and was christened ‘‘Florida’s Snowbird,’’ a pun on the state’s nickname for transplants from northern states. According to Brandweek, Bud Ice ‘‘created the most tightly-woven plan for the brand, interlacing local market activity with a raft of hockey association, and, of course, that larcenous penguin.’’ This combination of targeted television advertising and concentrated local and regional efforts proved quite successful as Bud Ice strengthened its grip on the top slot in the ice beer market.
The company also devoted a website to the birds, providing information about how the commercials were made, tie-ins to other Budweiser websites, and biographical data on the penguins. The graphics and prose style of the site were clearly targeted to the young adult audience.

Although industry analyst Jerry Steinman acknowledged to USA Today that ‘‘it’s hard to link increased sales of Bud Ice to one specific factor,’’ the ‘‘Penguins’’ campaign was remarkably well received by television viewers. This enthusiasm was borne out by USA Today ’s Ad Track survey, which monitored the popularity and effectiveness of national advertising campaigns. The penguin spots proved to be among the 10 most popular ads measured, winning the approval of nearly a third of the polled consumers. In 1996 Bud Ice’s sales rose 21 percent, compared to the 1.8 percent increase of ice draft sales in general.
The campaign did receive stiff criticism from a variety of groups who accused Anheuser-Busch of using a cute mascot to lure children to its brand (and thereby create a lifelong market for it). A former ad executive told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, ‘‘When I worked on the McDonald’s account [at another ad agency], the theory was to target kids 4- to 7-years-old. We thought if we could capture them at that age, we could keep them for life.’’ Critics believed Anheuser-Busch’s ‘‘Penguins’’ campaign was employing a similar strategy. Company officials, however, disputed the claim that the ads targeted kids, and Anheuser-Busch refused to pull the ‘‘Penguins’’ campaign. A spokeswoman for the company cited Anheuser-Busch’s $160 million educational campaign against underage drinking as evidence of the brewer’s opposition to youth drinking and its firm commitment to deterring it.

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