Oh Say, CAN You See

On May 30, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson declared June 14 to be Flag Day, a national holiday to celebrate the adoption of the Stars and Stripes as the official flag of the United States. What prompted Wilson to set aside an entire day to honor our flag? If you’ve ever stood with a crowd, eyes on our flag, and sang the national anthem while chills ran up and down your spine, you get it. The American flag is a symbol. It represents this beautiful land we call home and the men and women who died protecting it. Our flag tells the story of who we were as a country, who we are, and who we hope to be.

What other symbols conjure up the image of America? Maybe a bald eagle? Hamburgers and hot dogs? How about Budweiser beer?

In 2016, a hundred years after Wilson’s commemoration of our flag, Budweiser was looking at years of declining sales for their once popular beer. Not something any brand wants to face. As the team looked at new marketing efforts, they decided to capitalize on the long-standing association Americans have with Budweiser, hot days, and all those patriotic summer holidays. And to do that, they stopped selling Budweiser beer and began selling America. A bit of a stretch? Maybe. But it worked.

Just what did they change on their iconic can? Here are some of the details (and more here):

  • “Budweiser” changed to “America”

  • “This is the famous Budweiser beer. . .” changed to lyrics from the Star Spangled Banner

  • “Brewed by our original process. . .” changed to lyrics from Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land”

  • “Anheuser-Busch, Inc.” changed to “Liberty & Justice For All”

  • “Trademark” changed to “Indivisible” and “Registered” changed to “Since 1776”

  • “The World Renowned” changed to “Land of the Free” & “Budweiser Lager Beer” changed to “Home of the Brave”

By keeping the visual design of the can recognizable to passersby (same fonts and graphic placement), but completely altering the text to extol our country and flag, Budweiser successfully made us want to drink their beer. The AmeriCan, as it came to be known, revitalized the faltering public opinion of Budweiser the brand. It looked to persuade anyone who has stood to honor our flag (and enjoys beer—even some who don’t) that it is deeply patriotic to drink Budweiser.

Americans hold a deep sense of pride for their country. President Wilson knew this. Budweiser knows this, and used it to their advantage to revamp their image and increase sales. Lesson? Creating packaging that strikes a chord with the consumer is always a win.

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