Sep 6, 2014

Bud Light Brand Experience. Whatever.

Visitors to Whatever U.S.A.

It’s been difficult to watch tv this summer without seeing commercials for Bud Light’s “real town,” Whatever, U.S.A.  I have periodically gone on the site “,”  signed in with my age (to prove I am over 21, which anyone can do.)  I have to confess that I am not the target audience, and I am basically too old to decipher what is happening here. There is a renamed town called Whatever U.S.A. where people can party on.  Whatever.    That town is Crested Butte, Colorado, to which Bud Light paid $500,000 for the privilege of bringing 1000 Bud Light-drinking-fans for three days of partying and entertainment.  One Denver Post article said that Honey Boo Boo and Jay Z were spotted among the crowds.  In keeping with Bud Light’s blue bottle, main street was painted blue, and blue buses were carrying around Bud Light imbibing passengers.  Whatever USA officially opened for business just this week.  Whatever.

The run up to Whatever U.S.A. was pop up Bud Light Whatever experiences, running throughout the summer.  I was able to follow one video which featured two random guys who told the Bud Light Rep they were “Up for Whatever” and an experience ensued, among other things, meeting Alonzo Mourning in a hotel room, and having Karl Malone arrive as a mailman and hooking them up with the full whatever treatment.  This included being driven around town by a bull, riding on a bus with cheerleaders, playing H.O.R.S.E. with some NBA players, and getting tricked out at a men’s store in real N.B.A. goin’ out on the town style.  Now, that’s hardly whatever.  But there you go.

I got interested in the rankings of beer by sales and found some figures for the top 20 in 2013.  Brook and I used to use Budweiser as an example in our branding presentation, with its “This Bud’s for You” (i.e. anyone) line which was part of making them the King of Beers for a very, very long time.  Turns out that in 2013 Bud Light was the King of Beers, topping the top 20 with $5,945,776,000 in sales.  Among the top 20 are 11 beers distributed by Anheuser Busch, including #20 Bud Light Straw Ber Rita which had $246,550,800 in sales.  Budweiser, it’s audience growing older, clocked in with $2,1110,352,000 in sales.  Not bad, but not close to Bud Light.  Whatever.

Bud Light’s UpforWhatever campaign is what marketers calls “experiential.”  In addition to Whatever, U.S.A., Bud Light has surprised people all summer (who are up for whatever) with experiences like the NBA one described above.

One of the first experiential campaigns was Saturn’s Homecoming Weekend, described in 1994 by the Chicago Tribune:

SPRING HILL, Tenn. — They arrived from 47 states and a handful of countries. They strapped themselves into harnesses and climbed walls made to look like mountains. Two of them took a respite between the plant tour and the Wynona Judd concert and got married.There were bands, singers, magicians and a fireworks display with “God Bless America” and “America the Beautiful” as background music. Tattoo artists left their mark (briefly-they were washable) on guests while even a blacksmith demonstrated how he plies his trade. This was a happening, an event likened to Woodstock revisited.When 38,000 people braved heat, humidity and subsequent cloudbursts to attend.

Saturn was one of the first corporations to recognize that people connect with their stuff and the more you help them connect, the more they want your stuff.

One of the most bizarre experiential campaigns is the Marlboro Ranch Campaign, where winners of contests can go to Crazy Mountain Ranch and smoke with other smokers.  As Crazy Mountain Ranch *Marlboro* says on its Facebook page:

To all who have inquired. No. You can not pay to go to the ranch. Only way to experience the Crazy Mountain Ranch is by winning or being the guest of a winner.

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Gloria. Circa 1955.

Gloria. Circa 2012.

Other than working for the American Red Cross in Korea for two years, Gloria Garvey has lived in Hawai`i since 1971. Her opinion and other writing has appeared in: The American Philatelist. Honolulu Weekly, The Honolulu Advertiser, The Honolulu Star Bulletin, The Star Advertiser, Hawai`i Reporter, Pacific Business News, Island Scene, The Design Management Journal.

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