COMMENT: Bud dispute defines brand
Budejovicky Budvar and Anheuser-Busch have long argued over which brewer has the right to market 'Budweiser' beer. Spurred on by its recent success in the UK courts, the smaller Czech brewer is going on the offensive with a new marketing campaign. However, it is seeking to target a different sort of drinker than Anheuser-Busch's regular Bud drinker.
The Budweiser produced by the state-owned Budejovicky Budvar brewery in the Czech Republic, is launching its first marketing assault on the UK market. The move follows the unprecedented recent decision by the UK courts to allow both the Budvar and the Anheuser-Busch brewers to use their Budweiser and Bud registered trademarks for their beer.
The legal wrangling between the two brewers, often seen as a David versus Goliath situation, dates back to 1911 when the two beers clashed at a trade fair. A gentleman's agreement at the time defined their respective sales territories, however the fall of the Berlin Wall and the desire for growth brought that agreement to an end. The two companies have fought ever since over which company can use the trademark.
This has arguably proved far more beneficial to Budvar than Anheuser-Busch. The free publicity has no doubt helped it in tackling new markets outside of the Czech Republic. The legal dispute even provides a talking point for beer drinkers - spreading brand recognition by word of mouth.
However, the dispute has also helped to define the brand's positioning. Budvar is keen to target the premium beer drinker, and it even claims to be at the forefront of a new sub-category - imported premium beer.
To that end Budvar has now signed a one-year deal with Time magazine to run ads targeted at "top-end beer drinkers". The ads will focus on personalities from the brewery, such as the head brewer, providing a focus on the beer's provenance and craftsmanship. They are to be informative rather than full of "marketing hyperbole", with the aim of appealing to the discerning beer drinker. However, Anheuser-Busch has always been keen to be seen as more of a global brand that is accessible to all. Given that there is a clear distinction between the two beers' target consumer groups, perhaps there is hope the two will be able to get along after all.
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