Budweiser's Bold (But Not Surprising) Packaging Play

Let’s get one thing straight: Budweiser’s move this summer to replace its iconic brand name with “America” was a bold move — and big news. But it wasn’t a new idea — for Budweiser or other brands.

Companies have been making changes to their classic packaging and brand name for years as a way to attract attention, generate media attention and increase sales. 

Budweiser has been laying the groundwork for this year’s Americana play since 2011, when the stars and stripes appeared on its packaging. Last year, Bud again showed its patriotism through a partnership with the National Parks centennial celebration adorning its bottles with the Statue of Liberty.  Timed right before the Fourth of July holiday, it was clearly appealing to the public’s patriotic side. A Bud Light campaign last year introduced custom cans highlighting past Super Bowl winners.



Budweiser’s move to “America” this summer was viewed as a move to generate sales. Bud has been losing market share to the craft beer market for years, so this summertime marketing campaign, which will last through the November elections, is an attempt to recapture some of that lost brand luster.  

Brands using patriotic messaging, and specifically carrying it through to packaging, has become a tried-and-true technique that can be very successful.  It only works, however, when it authentically connects consumers to a core pillar of the brand.  Brands that successfully tap into patriotic emotions do so by connecting core American values with the real values of their brand — things like craftsmanship, freedom, steadfastness and honesty.

Temporary packaging also allows products to engage consumers around a core emotional value.  And the more engaged they are, the more likely they’ll trust that emotion and act on it. For brands that can establish a real emotional connection, consumers are more likely to behave positively toward that brand.  Product choice allows consumers to display their identity, so they want to be proud of the products they purchase and are willing to pay a premium for them.

Here are three examples of brands that have recently changed their packaging effectively.

Coca-Cola:For the past several years Coca-Cola, like Budweiser, has embraced the idea of changing  its packaging. Coke’s spin has had a decidedly personal angle. In the summer of 2014, the brand first announced that its “Share a Coke” campaign would feature 1,000 of the U.S.’s most popular names. The campaign repeated the following summer, but this time it was expanded to include monikers like “mom,” “dad,” “soulmate” and “VIP.” Coke’s personalized packaging proved extremely popular with consumers — who were often seen sharing their personalized cans on social media — and helped to increase sales for the brand. 

Snickers:Last year Snickers, too, embraced personalized packaging, but with a twist. Instead of taking a positive spin on personalization as Coke did, Snickers offered a humorous take, replacing its brand with offbeat and rather insulting words for hungry. These included, “cranky,” “grouchy,” “confused,” and “snippy.” The campaign was effective  because most people can identify with needing a 3 p.m. sugar rush. This campaign allowed Snickers to encourage consumers to share the "Hunger Bars" with friends, presumably when they're being cranky because they hadn't eaten.

Nutella:For a few years, Nutella has put the power of personalized packaging into the hands of its customers.  Since 2014, Nutella has placed a special machine in a UK department store that allowed consumers to choose what their Nutella jar will say. The brand has utilized this as a way to personally thank Nutella fans for their years of loyalty, giving the hazelnut spread a new name: their own.

Brands that dabble with changing up their packaging and adding a personalized twist know there’s a tremendous sales and social media opportunity. We’re in the generation where creativity pays, and selfies and social shares are an increasingly important currency. The idea of purchasing a product with limited-time packaging that’s printed with a message speaks to consumers is vastly appealing to Millennials especially, a generation we know is eager to participate in sharing photos and ideas around the brands they love. And it’s these consumers that speak to their social networks every day.

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