Breaking Through Clutter Not Limited to Big Companies ... Because ... 'Murica
Aaron Perlut | Partner

We work with our fair share of large companies. But as a boutique agency Elasticity is often approached by, and works with, virtually unknown organizations and brands as well. Big or small, they all want the same things — to build brand reputation, become a recognized leader, perhaps sell their new products or services.

The question being, to accomplish these things are you willing to do what it takes to break through the clutter of today’s information landscape and do something different, brave, timely or unique?

While most initially talk a good game, we oftentimes find the answer is “no,” which may stem from a lack of understanding of what it takes in today’s environment, or more often than not an unwillingness to to take risks. But where there is risk — if well calculated — there is reward.

Take Budweiser. By now you’ve heard that beginning May 23, its historic brand name will be replaced with “America” on bottles and cans among other changes meant to patriotize the product. Say what you will about the move which has been widely panned, but in my mind, it’s insanely smart.

Why? Think Donald Trump. Yeah, that guy with the orange face and spaghetti squash mane who has miraculously become the presumptive Republication Party nominee for president.

Anheuser-Busch InBev (the makers of Bud) noticed that beyond saying the most batshit crazy things we’ve ever heard from a presidential candidate, Trump vaulted to the top of the heap by embracing the populist passions that were just waiting to explode out of America’s working class — the same audience that drinks Budweiser by the gallon.

As Politico’s Michael Lind wrote, “In Trump, many of the kind of white working-class voters once called Reagan Democrats have found a tribune who represents their views and values more consistently than conservative populists like the Dixiecrat George Wallace, the Old Right paleo-conservative Pat Buchanan or the ‘theo-conservative’ Pat Robertson, all of whom faltered in their bids for the presidency.”

Theo-conservatives aside, Budweiser smelled an opportunity to jump on Trump’s “Make America Great Again” train and tap into the unbridled nationalist passions by its middle-American core drinker who could care less about latte art and the beer-snobbery that’s driven the craft beer boom.

If you’re a small- to mid-size business and don’t have an estimated $300 million for media spends alone (not including the creative), now your asking yourself, “How does Budweiser’s America effort apply to me?”

Simple: If you are willing to do something different, brave, timely or unique — which is where Bud’s brilliance, in this case, really lies — even if your coffers are small you can develop a creative approach that breaks through the clutter, builds brand awareness and ultimately drives sales.

Take Saugatuck Brewing, a craft brewer producing about 15,000 barrels of suds annually in comparison to the 121.9 million barrels Bud produced in 2005. Noting Budweiser’s “America” effort, Saugatuck boldly announced it would begin producing ‘Murica brand beer.

“Fear not, America. We’re here to make beer named after America great again,” the brewer’s post on Facebook stated. “This ensures that every drop of our beer is as true and honest as our fore fathers before us. Unlike other ‘America’ beers, our brewery is completely American owned. What does it taste like, you ask? Freedom. It tastes like Freedom.”

Within two hours the post sparked more than 400 reactions, 200 shares and 30 comments — even though the entire thing was a parody.

“This is a joke,” Saugatuck’s Megan Pruim admitted to MLive. “We were sitting around the brewery, having a little bit of fun and seeing the humor in it. We were playing around with the idea and decided to do something to make people laugh.”

A joke indeed, but well-executed marketing genius as well, whether they knew it or not. Budweiser announced its effort on a Tuesday and by Wednesday the craft brewer launched its parody meant to capitalize on the hype as well as the scorn for Bud.  And while Saugatuck’s beers are only distributed in Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin and Minnesota — you can bet craft drinkers nationwide are now wondering how they can get their hands on the brewer’s actual products.

Brands and organizations of all shapes and sizes are eager to become recognized leaders, sell their new products or services and more. But it in today’s ADHD-laced hyper-information world, it’s not that simple. You must examine the landscape around you and oftentimes take a timely, well-calculated creative leap of faith.

Both Budweiser and Saugatuck did that — with vastly different budgets and audiences in mind, yet to similar ends.

God bless ‘Murica.

Aaron Perlut

Aaron Perlut is a cofounding partner of Elasticity with some 25 years of diverse experience in journalism, public relations and digital marketing. He is a former senior reputation management counselor at Omnicom company FleishmanHillard, as well as a communications executive for two of the nation's largest energy companies. Throughout his career, Perlut has counseled a range of organizations – Fortune 500s, state governments, professional sports franchises, economic development authorities, well-funded startups and large non-profits – helping manage reputation and market brands across a diverse channels in an evolving media environment.

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