In the competitive world of beer brands, Bud Light consistently stays on top. Though American beer sales in general have declined, Bud Light has held steady as the top-selling beer in the United States for more than a decade. Now, the brand is poised to win over even more fans by using bold new marketing tactics to engage millennials.
“The highly coveted millennial demographic was one that the brand hadn’t yet ‘won’ with,” says Khaleed Juma, creative director of Acosta Mosaic Group, whose Mosaic agency partnered with the Anheuser-Busch InBev brand on several recent activations. In 2014, “Bud Light set out to find new, innovative ways to connect with our millennial consumer,” Juma says.
Enter the “Up for Whatever” campaign, which feeds into the brand’s spontaneous tagline: “the perfect beer for whatever happens.” As official beer of the National Football League, Bud Light used the 2014 Super Bowl to kick off the campaign with an on-air spot that featured a young man engaged in unexpected situations (think an impromptu ping-pong match with Arnold Schwarzenegger). Then in October, Crested Butte, Colorado, became a branded town called “Whatever, USA,” a three-day activation produced by Mosaic and Fusion Marketing.
“We know that millennials have the highest desire to travel and experience new places,” Juma says. “With that in mind, we thought: ‘What if “Whatever” could be a place? What if we turned a feeling into an actual destination you could visit?’” From there, producers built a program that tapped into what Juma describes as “millennial motivators,” namely, allowing consumers “to play their own role in brand storytelling [by] equipping them with new and unexpected experiences that build their social media capital, while providing them with a story that they’d tell for years to come.”
Vying to get invited to the pop-up town, some 204,000 people uploaded 10-second online video auditions. From that pool, Bud Light selected 1,000 guests to attend a weekend filled with activities that included concerts, mountain biking, a parade, and (of course) plenty of Bud Light drinking. Throughout the four-month campaign, social media content exceeded key performance indicators with 587 million impressions and awareness increasing 267 percent over the goal. Reported brand preference also grew by 30 percent.
This year, Bud Light continued its ambitious Super Bowl advertising with an on-air spot that featured a life-size Pac-Man maze built in downtown Los Angeles. The brand also hosted a new activation on the ground in Phoenix, where the big game took place. Instead of bringing back its Bud Light Hotel activation, the beer partnered with Mosaic to host the House of Whatever. Running January 30 to February 1, the activation took over a downtown hotel and treated 4,000 guests to 49 different experiences that included concerts, parties, and unusual activities such as a speed-painting session with Shaquille O’Neal. Guests again had to audition to attend the event, and 10,000 consumers recorded 15-second videos that they uploaded to social media with the #UpforWhatever hashtag.