Anheuser-Busch InBev launched its "America" Budweiser cans this month

Anheuser-Busch InBev launched its "America" Budweiser cans this month

Samuel Johnson once said: "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel." What does that say about Anheuser-Busch InBev, The Coca-Cola Co and Diageo?

In the last few weeks, the three firms - each top dogs in their respective fields of beer, soft drinks and spirits - have separately launched patriotic packaging for their biggest brands in the US. AB InBev got the ball rolling by announcing this month a change of name for Budweiser to "America". Then, Diageo got in on the act with the launch this week of the "All-American" Smirnoff Red, White & Berry while, the next day, Coca-Cola unveiled star-spangled cans for its Coke brand.

(Perhaps fearing it was a late-comer to the patriotism party, Coca-Cola rammed home its message by featuring the words "I'm proud to be an American" on the can - lyrics, incidentally, from country music song "God Bless the USA".)

Why the sudden rash of red, white and blue?

It would be too easy to blame Donald Trump, and the apparent return to American exceptionalism seen under his unexpected rise to the Republican presidential nomination. Plenty of marketing campaigns in years past have wrapped themselves up in the American flag - see, for example, every Budweiser Super Bowl ad ever. But, despite Trump himself attempting to claim credit for the new Budweiser pack, the answer is probably more prosaic.

Despite being in a so-called creative industry, marketers often display the same moribund levels of creativity as Hollywood's most hackneyed scriptwriters. If it worked once for someone else, then copy copiously.

A prime example of this is Coca-Cola's Share-a-Coke campaign, which started back in 2011 as an idea from Australian bottler Coca-Cola Amatil. Its success, particularly in getting young people back into soda consumption, saw it spread throughout Coca-Cola's bottler network. It caught perfectly trends towards personalisation, and was soon popping up in other soft drinks brands and other beverage segments. It has even transferred over to the snacks industry - Mondelez's Cadbury's chocolate brand gave it a whirl - but it was the beverage industry that really ran with it.

In the past couple of years, I've had the pleasure of creating my own personalised Coke bottles at Coca-Cola's UK headquarters in London and laser-printing my name on a bottle of SABMiller's Pilsner Urquell in just some of the examples of recent personalisation campaigns.

PepsiCo last month released personalised emoticons on its Pepsi brand and Scottish soft drinks maker AG Barr gave a patriotic spin to the concept when it released Irn Bru bottles clothed in 57 different tartans.

The latest wave of personalisation, however, appears to come with an even larger dose of patriotism. It is no coincidence that Coca-Cola's cans are an extension of an extension of the Share-a-Coke campaign, which has since morphed into activations featuring music lyrics on bottles and Diet Coke packaging with millions of unique designs.

There are other factors at play - the US is in an election year and in the Summer the country's athletes will decamp to Rio for the Olympic Games. Add to that the swathes of column inches and retweets AB InBev got for its Budweiser pack change and you have a potent summer mix. We can surely expect more of the same over the next few weeks.

'Scoundrels', it would appear, will do anything for a few extra case sales.