Commentary

Is America The Weiser Or The Loser? My Continent For A Beer!

Somewhere, the Clydesdales are sobbing.

“I knew they were having trouble as a beer,” Clarence, one of the lead show horses, whinnied, sotto voce, to a stablemate.

“I mean, real beer drinkers have always called it piss water, and all the craft brews were eating them alive,” he said, lowering his head. “And nobody seems to be buying the beer truck/Dalmatian imagery shit anymore.” 

“I know!” said the guy next to him, shaking his platinum fringe. 

“Still, I never dreamed the situation was so desperate that they’d even think of transitioning into a Continent!”

“Who does that?! “ 

The outraged horses, of course, refer to the announcement that briefly broke the Internet earlier in the week: that Budweiser beer, and its parent company, Anheuser-Busch. now owned by Belgian brewer InBev, will take the name “America” on its 12-ounce cans and bottles.

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To be fair, the seven-letter name of the massive continent was initially mis-attributed to that of an Italian mapmaker, and has been disputed since Vespucci days. So what’s the big deal to convert the B-word to the A-word, using the same cursive font? 

Maybe America, the country, is a tad iconic to the people hung up on all that parchment-y stuff like what the Constitution, and the Emancipation Proclamation means to a democratic society and all. 

Still, with only minor tinkering, the can’s formerly monarchist slogan “the King of Beers” was switched up to the uber-happening money-phrase “E Pluribus Unum.” Then the “AB” was changed to “US.”

Easy peasy, ’murrica!

And to give credit where credit is due: In an even ballsier move, Budweiser didn’t really buy America -- they are just kind of leasing it, well, more like freeloading off of it, for the summer. 

And as every houseguest in the Hamptons knows, the “season” goes from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day. 

That way America-the-Can can make the scene at major backyard barbecues and the all-important Fourth of July shindigs — from the mountains, to the valleys, to the oceans, white with (beer) foam. 

Oh, yeah, and don’t tell anyone, but the post-Labor Day plan is for Bud to grift off America until the Presidential election on Nov. 8th.

Which brings up Donald Trump, who -- no surprise -- has already claimed credit for the move. 

In an appearance on Fox and Friends, the Don was asked if he thought his slogan “Make America Great Again” had anything to do with the Budweiser name change. "I think so,” he said. “They're so impressed with what our country will become, they decided to do this before the fact." 

I can’t believe he missed the opportunity to say “America, you’re canned!” 

Sorry to sound so snarky, but I find this move ridiculous, and a disgrace.

Such cognitive dissonance about what our country stands for is weird to me, given my liberal/progressive background. 

I’m old enough to remember when right-wing, love-it-or-leave-it types were screaming about the dirty “hippies” who were desecrating the flag by wearing it as a poncho in the mud at Woodstock. 

The whole meaning of the “America” thing gets even more muddled by what Ricardo Marques, the Budweiser VP, claimed in the press release.

"We are embarking on what should be the most patriotic summer that this generation has ever seen,” he said.

Say what? Who is “this generation?” I think people really want to feel patriotic, but the reality is too scary and frustrating for that, although downing some shitty beer might help.

But by “patriotic,” Marques was referring to the “Copa America Centenario” being held on U.S. soil for the first time, “ (who knew? ) and “Team USA competing at the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games." 

I see. That makes sense. We’re very excited about the sudden outbreak of the Zika virus, and Brazil‘s destabilizing political coup, right out of the “House of Cards,” going on as we speak, and the chaos that it will inevitably bring to its economically desperate citizenry. Still, advertisers are putting down gazillions on the Olympics — the slots are going like hotcakes. 

What a disconnect. 

Now I see why the Budweiser brand had such a weak showing at the last Superbowl, with its top commercial coming in ninth (when it has historically been first or second) on the USA Today charts. 

What I remember from the Bud work this year was all the dissonance: while one Bud commercial made fun of beer with “fruit” (and the fruity men who drink it?) another spot, also in the Bud portfolio, a decent, citrusy pale ale, called, Shock Top, featured a talking orange slice as insult comic. 

Have we as a country achieved full idiocracy? Still, I’m sure the company researched the hell out of this move, right? Right or wrong, it has put Budweiser in the news, even if it lit up the Twitterverse with snark. 

Actually, I bet hosts and hostesses throughout our great land will load up on “America” for their summer parties, just for the conversation value. 

And some millennials and even their parents, will buy it as an ironic gesture. 

As the spinmeister Ricardo Marques further puts it: The name change is aimed at inspiring drinkers “to celebrate America and Budweiser’s shared values of freedom and authenticity.”

And this new “America” Bud label comes full circle, freedom- and authenticity-wise: it also includes a line from Woody Guthrie's iconic song, "This land is your land." 

I have no idea whether they are paying royalties for it. But in his time Guthrie, the famously lefty-leaning political activist, also wrote a song, "Old Man Trump" about Fred Trump, Donald’s dad. 

It turns out that Guthrie, a veteran, actually rented an apartment in a Trump project called Beach Haven in Brooklyn in the 1950s. And he was appalled by Trump’s obviously racist rental practices. 

So the “This land is your land” man ended the song with “No, no, no! Old Man Trump!

Old Beach Haven ain't my home!”

Sometimes, “authenticity” is so filled with irony that you can’t make this stuff up. Next: a wall around Modelo.

19 comments about "Is America The Weiser Or The Loser? My Continent For A Beer! ".
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  1. Don Perman from self, May 12, 2016 at 7:30 p.m.

    I'll drink to this one...and I don't drink beer. So many great connections and threads are here, I found myself marveling at each new turn.  I especially liked the focus on the cynicism and avoidance of all the Brazilian drama.  I'm truly curious now to see if the campaign cashes in or repels people with its strategy.  Thanks, Barbara.

  2. Mark Hornung from MBrandSF, May 12, 2016 at 7:32 p.m.

    Agree completely, Barbara. The appropriation of our country's name for any product is embarrassing and a new low in taste coming at a time when I thought we had reached bottom. The fact that it ersatz Budweiser (the real stuff from Eastern Europe is actually pretty good) makes it all the worse. Whoever approved this at ABInBev should fired... or canned as it were. "Next: a wall around Modelo." Now THAT's funny...

  3. Dave Migdal from Migdal-Underwood Consulting, May 12, 2016 at 7:32 p.m.

    "Hey Beertender, may I please have an America and some Clinachos?"
    On second thought, I'll pass....
    You're right, Barbara, this move is completely ridiculous. It also reinforces how out of touch brands can be

  4. Jonathan Hutter from Northern Light Health, May 12, 2016 at 7:36 p.m.

    Woody Guthrie would be writing a song about this if he were around to see his song used this way.

  5. Barry Udoff from Rxideas, May 12, 2016 at 7:42 p.m.

    They used to write tortured rationals for their vague ideas. Now? It's just because, you know, America. 

  6. Tom Scharre from The Hunch Fund, May 12, 2016 at 7:47 p.m.

    Never trust a beer that has an alias.

  7. Joe Ray from Maximo Branding, May 12, 2016 at 8:02 p.m.

    Now we can all shotgun America, maybe AB will have a YouTube series of videos on that. 

  8. Craig Mcdaniel from Sweepstakes Today LLC, May 12, 2016 at 8:25 p.m.

    The French gave us the Statue of Liberty. Now the Belium's want to give us a new beer can.  Wow, the world is really showing progress isn't it? What's next the Irish giving us a whiskey chaser or the Mexicans a shot of Tequila?

    Cheers and let's go party hardy Barbara!

  9. Craig Mcdaniel from Sweepstakes Today LLC, May 12, 2016 at 8:32 p.m.

    Barabara, another thought. Does this mean that their new theme song with be James Brown's "Living in Amera" or Kansas's "Song for America"? Maybe you should start a poll for the new replacement song.  I vote for Song for America.

  10. Dyann Espinosa from IntraStasis, May 13, 2016 at 2:31 a.m.

    I'm not clear on whether or not one has to get permission or pay for the right to use America as the name of a product. Or is it so broadly applied a term that it can be used by anyone? But, it seems to me, when a beer with such strong name recognition as Bud, Budweiser, is willing to submerge its identity under a generic name--even if it is the name of our continents--there is something wrong with the owner's grasp of what it took to achieve that kind of positive connection in people's minds. What they are doing is getting a little punch from the America name, which will come and go, but at the great expense of their own hard won name and identity.
    BTW, it was surprising to read that Woody Guthrie wrote about Trump senior. But I think it shows that no matter how many "bleaters" you get to trail along after you on their little hooves, the smart ones will see through you.

  11. George Parker from Parker Consultants, May 13, 2016 at 8:51 a.m.

    InBev is half Belgian and half Brazilian. You’d think they have enough on their plate right now without starting this shit. I remember when Bud paid millions to be the official beer of the World Cup when it was held in Germany. It was the only beer sold at the stadiums. The German’s went apeshit. As one put it so well… “I wouldn’t even wash my car in this piss.” By the way, over on AdScam I refer to Bud as “Nun’s Piss.” Usually accompanied by suitable visuals. Cheers/George

  12. Jeff Sawyer from GH, May 13, 2016 at 8:59 a.m.

    "Belgilian" would be more accuracte. 

  13. Martin Kleinman from Communications Strategies, May 13, 2016 at 9:01 a.m.

    yeah, the appeal will be bifurcated: right wing Trumpistas and younger beer fans who'll buy it ironically.  a cheesy way to generate incremental sales during the summer.  p.s. -- want a great AMERICAN beer?  Try Captain Lawrence Freshchester, and Lagunitas Pils.  OUTSTANDING.

  14. Patrick Scullin from Ames Scullin O'Haire, inc., May 13, 2016 at 9:49 a.m.

    Nice article, Barbara, and spot on.
    Corona just announced a name change to "U.S.A." Read all about it at The Lint Screen dot com.

  15. Growling Rooster from Ugly Mug, May 13, 2016 at 12:08 p.m.

    I guess considering that the sales of that swill were off by -31% last year, AB/Inbev is desperately pandering to a crowd without the brains to drink a better brew.

  16. Jane Farrell from Freelance, May 13, 2016 at 12:49 p.m.

    Very funny and insightful column. When I first saw an ad for this, I wasn't sure I understood it right. It seemed too ludicrous. Bnow now I know it's for real, it's a disgrace. A total and utter disgrace.

  17. Randall Tinfow from CLICK-VIDEO LLC, May 13, 2016 at 5:28 p.m.

    Unbelievably stupid to spend $50B for a suds maker and then jettison the brand equity.  

    The appeal of Bud is that you can lean against the bar, slur a one syllable word and get a reliable brew.  To add the baggage of patriotism is a turn off.    

  18. Jim English from The Met Museum, May 15, 2016 at 10:29 p.m.

    Never believed Budweiser "patriotism."  Thought the Clydesdale spot at 2002 Super Bowl "honoring" Sept. 11 was more than tasteless.

  19. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, June 11, 2016 at 8:56 a.m.

    The sales loss couldn't have happened to a better company. Barbara, your clarity shows the cloudiness of this entire mess and a huge mess it is. My lowly advise is to get rid of any InBev stocks now - take special care to check on any mutuals you own or combined fund products including your 401K investments, etc. My guess is that people will take offense with InBev name choices and if they think it won't be pointed out by their competitors.....There is a Belgium Beer Company for sale...

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