Michelob Gets Crafty

Sales of microbrews, or craft beers, have been steadily cannibalizing sales of megabrands over the past few years. So it’s no wonder megabrewers have been verrrry interested in getting in on the craft boom. In the latest sally, according to ad magazine Brandweek, Anheuser-Busch has decided to recast Michelob as “a member of the craft segment.” The rebranding campaign will cost $30 million:

Michelob’s ‘Crafting a better beer’ ads will even mimic Boston Beer’s Sam Adams ads. TV spots … will feature [Anheuser-Busch] employees talking about Michelob ingredients.

Earlier this year, Michelob switched back to an all-malt recipe, dropping the rice and corn additives, in an effort to appeal to craft beer drinkers who like some flavor in their beer.

Anheuser-Busch is also giving its Budweiser brand a new tag line—“the great American lager”—in an effort to emphasize its “heritage.”

Reaction from small brewers has been mixed. Brandweek quotes Gary Fish of Deschutes Brewery as saying, “If they can convert a Bud drinker into a Widmer drinker, then that person might be amenable to trying Deschutes.”

Some are worried about the ads leading to confusion, however. Joe Whitney, of Sierra Nevada, says, “On a supermarket shelf, that’s where the lines start to blur. That could hurt if the person shopping has a peripheral understanding of what is craft.”

Megabreweries are happy to foster the confusion—in fact, they seem to be awfully confused themselves about what people want in beer, and how they should market it. Oh, for the good old days.

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