Whining, Dining, and Other Unpaid Observations

Pabst Blue Ribbon: The Hip, Recessionomic Choice

Posted in advertising by KP on September 19, 2009

Hey you. Yeah, you. Would you like to be drinking a trendy, authentic beer that says “irony” and “anti-establishment,” all in one inexpensive, unassuming bottle? Pabst Blue Ribbon is your answer, friend.

Ad Age reports a 25% sales increase in the brand, despite a higher price point than other “below premium” brews and a seeming flat-out refusal to advertise.

You know, I like this. I don’t think I’ve ever even had a PBR, yet I feel it has much more of a personality–both homey and a little hipster, which is a hard combination to pull off–than, say, Natty Light or Busch. Miller High Life is climbing its way up the ladder of distinctive brand images with its brilliant advertising and the whole  “The Champagne of Beer” thing, but it’s spending 4.7 mil (for just the first half of 2009, by the way) to do it.

PBR has gone rogue, and it’s paying off.

Based on principle, I would never encourage a brand to just do away with advertising. First, it usually spells decreased awareness, preference and sales. Second, it kills the lifeblood of all the good folks in the ad biz, and no one should want that. We’re nice people.

But: I find it fascinating that PBR is capitalizing on the recession without the use of advertising. Current advertising. Because the rise in PBR’s sales is not only attributed to the economy. Their word-of-mouth campaign in 2004–that’s 5 years ago–is being hailed as the consumer’s motivating factor.

Here, Jeremy Mullman will tell you:

Back in 2004, Pabst executed a highly effective word-of-mouth campaign that made the long-declining brand an “ironic downscale chic” choice for bike messengers and other younger drinkers who viewed the beer as a statement of non-mainstream taste. PBR sales surged by nearly 17% that year, and have climbed at single-digit rates since, until this year, when the recession sent its sales soaring as more drinkers were pushed into the subpremium category.

And that is something I like. A struggling brand rebranded itself, and that new, more desirable image stuck.

Bravo, Pabst Blue Ribbon.

Radio Shack? Take some notes.

(AdAge)

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9 Responses

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  1. Solar Panel said, on September 22, 2009 at 7:00 pm

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  2. JimmyBean said, on October 1, 2009 at 8:06 am

    I don’t know If I said it already but …I’m so glad I found this site…Keep up the good work I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say GREAT blog. Thanks, 🙂

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  3. Lubin said, on October 4, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    Ad Age closes to the public after 7 days.

    Here is a quote from the article (to keep things fresh – and drive home this point):

    Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR):
    Beer Brand Outpaces Competition Despite Higher Price Point, No Advertising

    http://adage.com/article?article_id=139040

    But still, if PBR costs more and advertises less, why is it up 25% this year, vs. an 18% gain for Keystone and low- to mid-single-digit gains for the other beeer brands?

    The answer, wholesalers and beer-marketing experts said, is likely found in marketing activity that occurred long before the current recession.

    Back in 2004, Pabst executed a highly effective word-of-mouth campaign that made the long-declining brand an “ironic downscale chic” choice for bike messengers and other younger drinkers who viewed the beer as a statement of non-mainstream taste.

    PBR sales surged by nearly 17% that year, and have climbed at single-digit rates since, until this year, when the recession sent its sales soaring as more drinkers were pushed into the subpremium category.

    Think of it as conspicuous downscale consumption, or something like it.

    “There’s still a bit of hipness to it,” said Benj Steinman, editor of Beer Marketer’s Insights. “Of all the subpremiums, it’s got a little more cache.”

    “It’s an anti-establishment badge,” added a major market wholesaler. “It seems to play to the retro, nonconformist crowd pretty well.”

  4. Lubin said, on October 4, 2009 at 4:48 pm

    The “Ironic Downscale Chic” also seemed to begin with David Lynch and ‘Blue Velvet.’

    Check out this eight seconds of “product placement” (courtesy of YouTube):

    • KP said, on October 4, 2009 at 5:03 pm

      Great clip–thanks! Also, is it the link or the story that expires after a week?

      • Lubin said, on October 4, 2009 at 5:23 pm

        The link… the story is always available to subscribers to Ad Age.

        ….but the link will go to a “sign-in page.”

        Ciao,

        from Montreal.

  5. […] was kind of shocking about them is that they are advertisements for Pabst Blue Ribbon. ‘I thought they didn’t advertise? I thought that was their thing, their […]

  6. can i blog about beer? « paige turner said, on October 21, 2009 at 11:19 am

    […] kind of shocking about them is that they’re advertisements for Pabst Blue Ribbon. I thought they didn’t advertise? I thought that was their thing, their […]

  7. Can I blog about beer? | Recent Addition said, on October 23, 2009 at 11:00 pm

    […] kind of shocking about them is that they’re advertisements for Pabst Blue Ribbon. I thought they didn’t advertise? I thought that was their thing, their […]


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