Can free beer fix Budweiser's image?

Anheuser-Busch will offer free samples at trendy bars and restaurants in hopes of gaining younger fans.

By Kim Peterson Sep 22, 2010 1:17PM
Beer © CorbisAt one time, Budweiser may have held the title "king of beers." But no longer.

Consumer loyalty has plummeted. Sales are alarmingly low. The under-30 crowd has simply ignored the brand, USA Today reports. When you can't get noticed by one of biggest beer-drinking age groups, you have a problem.

So Anheuser-Busch InBev (BUD) is using the ultimate attention-getting weapon: free beer. Starting next week, Budweiser will begin offering free samples at trendy bars and restaurants, writes USA Today's Bruce Horovitz.

We're not talking about a thimble-size sample either. The free beers will measure between 6 and 12 ounces, depending on what local laws allow, Horovitz writes. Anheuser-Busch hopes to hand out 500,000 samples in the first few weeks, emphasizing a "Budweiser National Happy Hour" on Sept. 29.
It's a simple strategy. Young people don't think Budweiser is cool and don't drink it. But if they actually taste one, they might consider it as drinkable as the hipper brands -- and probably cheaper. Post continues after video:
Unit sales of Budweiser fell 9% last year and are down about the same amount this year, Horovitz writes. One firm found that in less than a decade, Budweiser's ranking fell from No. 16 to No. 220 on a survey of consumer loyalty for the top 501 consumer brands.

Will free samples help turn Budweiser's fortunes around? "Brands can come back," the president of Anheuser-Busch told USA Today. "Consumers have a high awareness of the brand, but some haven't tried it in a long time."

Others are skeptical. Unlike Pabst Blue Ribbon, which carefully orchestrated a brilliant comeback from has-been status, Budweiser just can't connect with beer drinkers.

"They're in trouble because they don't know how to talk to consumers," one brand consultant told USA Today. "They no longer know how to create an emotional bond."
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