Nipping millennials in the ‘Bud’

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Boating and beer go together, at least in the recognition that both industries need to reach millennials if they hope to see long-term growth.

So it’s no surprise that the flagship brands of Budweiser and Bud Light will again drop millions of dollars on advertising during this year’s Super Bowl in a play to attract millennials that Anheuser-Busch identifies as critical to selling more beer.

There are some interesting parallels to our industry’s Discover Boating campaign. Overall, indications are our Discover Boating campaign is on the right track, albeit falling way too short on the funding side. In fact, it’s ludicrous when we say we want to grow boating, but haven’t changed Discover Boating funding in 10 years. That said, here are some other notable observations:

According to a report in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Bud and Bud Light will buy 3-1/2 ad minutes during the Feb. 1 Super Bowl on NBC because last year’s 112.2 million viewers was the most-watched TV program ever, according to Nielsen. One of the Bud ads will pair the Clydesdales and a puppy. That combo last year gave Bud the top spot in USA Today’s Ad Meter. All Bud will say right now is a new 60-second ad will tug viewer’s heartstrings with an emotional story of a puppy that’s lost its way.

Emotional appeals work. The parallel to our Discover Boating campaign is the latter’s introduction of the emotional “Stories of Discovery” — videos packed with excitement and emotion that appeals to millennials. Similarly, while Discover Boating doesn’t have funds for nationwide TV yet, it does have a strong Internet presence recognizing that digital is how millennials roll. For Bud, last year the puppy ad also went viral with 54.7 million YouTube views.

To get even more mileage, this year Bud will cleverly post sneak-peeks online of some ads leading up to the Super Bowl. Similarly, to extend the impact of the “Stories of Discovery,” these videos have been made available free to dealers and many have integrated them into their websites (if you haven’t, you’re passing up a great tool.) Moreover, it’s anticipated that the Discover Boating team has more videos on the drawing board for this year.

Interestingly, Anheuser-Busch vice president of marketing Jorn Socquet describes the lineup of ads as “big, bold and disruptive” with “unparalleled storytelling.” Bingo! It’s a fact that today’s millennials are drawn to storytelling. They don’t want to be told how good something is, they want to emotionally see that for themselves. For them, a good story is miles ahead of any ad claims.

Socquet reportedly said: “We’re going very hard after millennials. We have to win with these consumers.” His reference is to turning around the fact that sales for Bud and Bud Light are declining, albeit Bud Light is still the top-selling brand. More specifically, for 25 years Bud sales volumes have declined. Give or take a few years, there’s a boating parallel here, too.

The millennial generation (18 to 33 years old) is the largest population demographic. A tech-savvy, media-connected group, it’s also the most racially diverse and highly educated generation in our history.

The last U.S. Census indicates millennials outnumber even baby boomers. The sheer buying power of this population segment is already big and will do nothing but increase. But unlike boomers, millennials are independent with a highly developed sense of self and the narcissism inherent in their “selfie” culture.

They respond to added value to their experiences via such things as loyalty programs, recognition events, special access to sales and promotions and a distinct sense that they are viewed as special.

The marine industry must identify and address what makes millennials tick, target their interests and turn them into buyers. Right now, Discover Boating is taking the lead. But manufacturers and dealers must also advance the effort by the “stories” they tell and the boating image they create. For openers, it’s past time for a serious look at increasing Discover Boating funding.

Want to know more? A 2014 Pew Research Center report, "Millennials in Adulthood," offers a good look at specific characteristics of millennials.

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