The popularity of PBR is a lesson in reverse psychology. Young adults have taken to the beer because it wasn't forced down their throats. Like ugly clothes and extreme sports, Pabst's value lies in its expression of individuality and choice, a rejection of consumer society by those who feel manipulated by it. Pabst's selling point is its distinct unpopularity, its unself-conscious existence among beers that reinvent themselves as regularly as political candidates.Jesus, it's almost a reason not to drink it. Beer is still marketed under a paradigm that suits the America in which beer became popular. Brand loyalty is of the highest importance, like buying a certain brand of pickup, even if it falls apart in your driveway, just like the last one; rooting for the same team every year, even if they lose; having a favorite NASCAR driver. Add to that mix the loyalty of beer brand, and you have a picture of the target -- he's a Chevy driver, a Giants fan, roots for Jeff Gordon -- and he's a Bud man. What's different about the PBR campaign? Everything, but nothing. It's still a celebration of the identity that a brand offers its patron, but with a contemptuous rejection of the traditional symbols (think snowboarding instead of NASCAR).
Monday, April 21, 2003
Thinking Too Hard: The WaPo, in what could almost be a press release for a re-branding campaign, trumpets the "return" of PBR -- Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. In a paragraph typical of the piece, and sounding like it came right from a brainstorming session with a brand consultant, we are told: