'Blue-Collar' Beer Brands  Make a Comeback

August 1, 2004
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‘Blue-Collar’ Beer Brands  Make a Comeback

Growing up in the ’60s on the southeast side of Chicago, my working-class neighborhood bordered a steel mill. Across the street from the mill were taverns that drew most of their regular patrons from the mill’s workers.
These saloons advertised the popular beer brands of their day on outdoor signs. Brands such as Schlitz, Old Style, Hamm’s and Pabst Blue Ribbon dotted the streets.
Huge mass-marketing campaigns by Anheuser-Busch and Miller Brewing and the advent of “lite” beer in the ’70s and ’80s changed the beer marketing landscape.
Heavily promoted brands such as Budweiser, Michelob, Miller Lite and Coors grabbed the lion’s share of the beer market, while Schlitz, Hamm’s and PBR lost their appeal.
But these long-dormant brands are making a comeback among young urbanites. And they’re doing it with little marketing support.
For example, Pabst Blue Ribbon, the nation’s No. 4 brewer with more than 25 regional beer brands including PBR, Old Style, Stroh’s, Olympia and Schlitz, spent less than $500,000 in marketing in 2002. In contrast, Anhueser-Busch spent more than $400 million the same year.
Some “twentysomething” beer drinkers are shunning the fancy microbrews and imports and the big-name brands in favor of PBR and other “blue-collar” brands.
Why? These young beer drinkers view these regional brews as “anti-brands” and “anti-corporate.” They like their simplicity and non-hype. They also like the fact that they cost less than their mass-marketed counterparts. Another reason is nostalgia. Their fathers, uncles or grandfathers drank these blue-collar beer brands.
Tradition can be a big part of your marketing strategy. Just ask the New York Yankees baseball club, which forgot about its importance when it switched brands of caramel corn from Cracker Jack to Crunch ’n Munch this spring.
But after an outcry from fans, the Yankees put Cracker Jack back in their line-up. Even the animal kingdom is weighing in on the beer issue.
A black bear in the state of Washington recently clawed his way into campers’ coolers, drank 36 cans of local Ranier beer and passed out. Seems the 2-year-old bear tried Busch beer (owned by Anheuser-Busch), but preferred the taste of Ranier (owned by Pabst Blue Ribbon).

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