Return to index page

February 27, 2004

More on Pabst

A couple of remarks on Pabst... one professional, the other personal.

First, you should read Rob Walker's original version of his big NYT Mag piece on Pabst and "the marketing of no marketing." Basically, Pabst has worked very hard to grow its sales without doing anything so overt as to gross out the urban hipsters who have been so critical to their new success. Savvy marketers have come to understand the dynamics of audiences like these only recently, thanks to The Tipping Point, the rise of coolhunting, and the prevalence of guerilla marketing. (With the exception of the geekier enterprise stuff I do for a certain software client, this is pretty much the kind of thing I get paid to think about.) My company has done a tiny bit for Pabst along the way, but clearly if we were working for them now you would not be pondering the backlash. (Ahem.)

The other story is funnier, and of about the vintage as the great old ads Gary linked to. My mom's side of the family was for decades entirely teetotaling--nary a drink for anyone, and very holy about the whole thing.

My mom might have been three or four, and was at dinner with my grandparents and some family friends. It was a big night out at the nicest restaurant in their small town in southern Oklahoma and she was dressed up like a proper little lady. The waitress waited until last to ask her what she would like to drink: "What'll you have little lady?"

"I'll have a Pabst Blue Ribbon, please!" said said, smiling, a perfect parrot of the TV slogan.

My grandparents tried to be mortified, but everyone just ended up cracking up. Behold the power of advertising.

She is teased about this to this day--which is funny, because though The Judy is emphatically no longer a teetotaler, she cannot stand beer.

So when people talk about Pabst being old-school, that's what always comes to my mind.

Posted by jay at February 27, 2004 10:53 AM | TrackBack
Comment spammers: see our Unauthorized Advertising Policy and rates

Interesting article, Jay -- thanks. I liked this quote:

It's a cliche to say that political parties operate like marketers. But here it's marketing that is like politics. When Pabst provides direct support to the subcultures that first embraced P.B.R., it is shoring up its new base. The brewer still needs the swing voters beer buyers whose loyalty is up for grabs, and who may latch on to a hot-button brand and hopes that its conspicuously cool base will influence them. But without the base, the whole structure comes down.

It was also interesting to learn that Carling Black Label was in the PBR portfolio. This was a high-end lager brand in the UK -- or at least the advertising made it seem that way. I never liked British bitter, so I stuck to lager. Despite the fact that most lagers in the UK taste pretty much the same, I hated Carling Black Label. I'd rather drink PBR than that piss.

Posted by: david on February 27, 2004 11:36 AM

There's an article about the resurgent PBR in today's Seattle Times that seems only half-aware of Pabst's "marketing of no marketing".

Even with PBR's comeback, it's still a mere drop in the beer bucket: 1 million barrels—of 8 total for the company—versus Anheuser-Busch's 103 million barrels, Miller's 38 million, and Coors's 22 million.

Posted by: Gary on March 19, 2004 06:16 PM
Post a comment