I call this the end of an era rather than the beginning of a new one, as this transition has been going on for at least 10 years, if not more. I would like to give credit for this to millennials who are coming of age as adult consumers, but frankly Gen X should probably get the credit. I will talk about that more later, but for now, let's examine the above example of a major brand making a radical transformation of their brand packaging and the implications thereof for all brands.
Bud Light is the largest beer brand in the world. So for that brand to make such a revolutionary change to their trade dress is striking. It either represents great hubris of a CMO, as was the case with Pepsico's ill-fated transformation of the Tropicana brand a few years ago, or it is a reflection of a brand who recognizes the world around them has changed for good and that they must change with it before they become irrelevant. I believe it is the latter.
What is driving this change? At its core, I believe that it is a universal mistrust of all things corporate. The more savvy and perhaps cynical Gen X and Millennial consumers have no trust or loyalty to the traditional corporations for whom their parents dedicated their lives and loyalty to, only to be betrayed as a consequence of soul-less economics. That's why they are attracted to founder-led, maker, and often local brands that impute the purpose and values of a human being in a way that can be evaluated straight up. Some have argued that this group cares more about what you stand for than what you make. I don't disagree with this, however, I believe it is deeper than this. It is about authenticity.
Authenticity is a difficult concept for large corporations to grasp, particularly those who offer large portfolios of multiple brands that have been created and positioned to appeal to the desires of a particular segment of the market. The notion of positioning is somewhat in-authentic to begin with. Politicians position themselves to appeal to the largest number of voters and we all know the motivations of politicians! Brands do the same thing. They are willing to "be" whatever will appeal to the largest number of buyers!
So what is the poor corporation supposed to do? In my way of thinking they need to begin thinking about brands not as the identity of a specified group of products in their portfolio, but rather think of brands as entities that exist to achieve a mission that shares values with a large number of people. They need to structure their organizations around that mission, filling them with employees who are passionate about that mission (rather than employees who are mercenaries to earn a living). Why? Because without purpose, a thin veneer of authenticity that only covers up inauthenticity is most damning of all for today's consumers.
When we look at Bud Light's new packaging, we easily see their attempt to convey a deeper sense of who they are as a brand, as one with history, honor and pride of a true maker of beer. Notice how the new packaging walks away from the communication of functional attributes of smooth and refreshing and replaces that with values based imagery.
This is a good start. The question now will be one of integrity to build a mission-driven brand organization behind this new identity. If they have the courage to do this, then they will have transitioned to brand authenticity.
Where does your brand stand today?
#brands, #brandstrategy, #budlight
This blog offers stories and discussions on how to build more relevance and differentiation for brands. The author is Timothy Coffey, Chief Revolutionist of Launchforce Strategy, a consumer research consultancy that specializes in highly creative qualitative methods. His experience ranges from brand and research management at Procter & Gamble to innovation management at Tupperware to founding and leading an integrated marketing strategy agency. He is the author of three books, Innovation Myths & Mythstakes, The New Super Consumer, Mom&Kid, and The Great Tween Buying Machine.