When I was eight years old, my family took a road trip to St. Louis to visit friends and see the sights. Among our touristy stops was a visit to Grant’s Farm where we saw the Budweiser Clydesdales. I remember being in awe of the huge beasts with hairy hooves. I still have a little stuffed Clydesdale that sits on a shelf at my parent’s house.

The Clydesdale commercials are one of the few, if not the only long-running ad I always looked forward to.

Sadly, the Clydesdales will no longer be the sole hallmark of Anheuser Busch. Evidently, 44% of 21-27 year old drinkers have never tried the red label Budweiser. According to The Wall Street Journal, it’s not just the younger drinkers who’ve caused a decline in Budweiser sales. Light beer, craft beer, cider, and other malt beverages are the biggest culprits.

The WSJ reports:

After years of developing advertising and marketing that appeals to all ages, AB InBev plans to concentrate future Budweiser promotions exclusively on that age bracket [21-27]. That means it won’t trot out the traditional Budweiser Clydesdales for this year’s holiday advertising. It means February’s Super Bowl ads will feature something more current than last year’s Fleetwood Mac. It means less baseball and more raves with DJ group Cash Cash.

The marketing push is accompanied by an effort to get Budweiser back on tap. Theory being: If Levi’s and Converse can end years of sales declines by winning over young consumers, so can Bud. “This is a very considered, long-term view of what will turn around the brand,” said Brian Perkins, AB InBev’s vice president of marketing, Budweiser.

Another long standing, watery American beer, Pabst Blue Ribbon, managed to reinvent itself as the hipster beer of choice. An achievement which probably bodes well for Budweiser. PBR’s resurgence was largely due to an approach similar to the one Budweiser is planning.  A study released in May indicates “autonomy” is what the younger crowd is looking for in products they deem cool. That’s exactly where PBR honed in. The Huffington Post reported:

Then something changed, and PBR was suddenly the hipster’s choice at bars and barbecues everywhere. Sales jumped by 20.3 percent in 2009 and continued to rise steadily over the next few years, according to Beer Marketer’s Insights. By 2013, Americans drank more than 90 million gallons of PBR, according to data from Euromonitor, which is nearly 200 percent more than they did in 2004.

In the early 2000s, PBR’s popularity started rising without any encouragement from the brand itself, which benefited from a more general renaissance of all things “retro-chic.” Seizing the opportunity, the brand began marketing to the demographic that was already attracted to the beer’s blue-collar associations and low price point.

While PBR’s new marketing campaign was aggressive, it also purposefully avoided the mainstream, eschewing Super Bowl TV ads in favor of sponsorship of “hip” events.

“[Pabst] linked themselves to a variety of things that presented the ‘autonomous’ image,” Campbell told The Huffington Post. “For example, they sponsored bike messenger rodeos, and they did it in Portland, which is a very autonomous city.”

Budweiser indicated they’ll take advantage of marketing at events like food festivals, which is probably a good place to start. While horses and autonomy seem like a match made in heaven, perhaps the marketing gurus know best. Although zombies and mainstream music seem to be exactly the opposite of what worked for PBR.

Following the Wall Street Journal’s report, The Washington Post assured readers the Clydesdales are not gone for good:

Anheuser-Busch announced that, while it would still go with zombies and Z in some of its ads, the Clydesdales would continue to occupy their role as the official heart-melters of the Super Bowl.

“The story this morning [WSJ report] may have left a wrong impression – the Budweiser Clydesdales will, in fact, be featured in next year’s Super Bowl advertising and are also a part of upcoming holiday responsible drinking advertising,” Anheuser-Busch said in a statement.

Marketing changes or not, the little stuffed Clydesdale on my shelf is there to stay.

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