“It’s a free country.”
It’s hard to argue with that reasoning from Budweiser for changing its name on its packaging to “America.” But that ironclad argument doesn’t mean the jeers and criticism the brand is taking for the move will be silenced.
— Budweiser (@Budweiser) May 10, 2016
Budweiser’s announcement that it will replace its brand name with “America” on its cans this summer has been met with a predictable amount of eye-rolling and groans. The campaign is already a success in its attempt to draw attention to the brand.
— Funny Or Die (@funnyordie) May 11, 2016
In fact, none other than Donald Trump himself claimed a bit of credit for the campaign. On Fox News, Trump said “[T]hey’re so impressed with what our country will become that they decided to do this before [the election].” Bud has not yet replied to Trump’s speculation—nor is it expected to. Up next? “Make Budweiser Great Again?”
Of course the flip side of this argument is that Budweiser is outright, 100 percent owning a brand personality most consumers already assign to it. It’s a move the brand more or less predicted in its 2015 “Letter to Shareholders” annual report in which AB InBev said, “We are increasing our investments in sales and marketing programs that build on each brand’s distinct image and consumer positioning.” It also noted that it would continue investing in package designs as “updated visual identities for our brands also help to elevate the core.”
And what’s more core to Budweiser’s “distinct image and consumer positioning” than “America?” For years now, Budweiser has put the American flag, Statue of Liberty, and NFL and MLB teams on its packaging—and put it’s scantily-clad “Budweiser Girls” in baseball stadiums. It’s done everything short of just calling itself “America.”
In fact, if anyone really wanted to get on Budweiser’s case, they could point out that the American flag bottles the beer maker used last year in its Independence Day “Macro We Stand” campaign are a violation of Section 8.(i) of Title 4 of the United States Code “Flag Code” approved by Congress.
The “Respect for Flag” section states: “The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever.” That design came after previous years’ label designs made even more direct use of the American flag.
And in 2014, Budweiser had the temerity to sponsor a music tour called “Made in America” despite the company’s parent AB InBev SA/NV being a Europe-headquartered conglomerate made up of Belgian and Brazilian interests.
After the recent move, The Washington Post addressed this fact pointblank with a piece titled: “Why Budweiser is the last beer that should call itself ‘America’.”
Budweiser has responded to these accusations via social media responses to those defending it.
And would anyone expect Bud to be swayed from its decision just months after its Super Bowl campaign was literally “Not Backing Down?”
One place that Budweiser’s name change might be useful is Czechia (nee Czech Republic). In 2012, local brewer Budějovický Budvar won a lawsuit over the ownership in that market for the name “Budweiser.”