The Early Years, 1852 – 1900s
In addition to being a trendsetter in the technical development of the brewing industry, Adolphus Busch was a master at advertising and promoting his brands.
Initially, all beer advertising was done either by word-of-mouth through the company’s traveling salesmen or “beer drummers,” or through point-of-sale items, such as wall hangings and beer trays displayed in local taverns. Early point-of-sale advertising was an integral part of beer marketing, and two of the company’s most popular examples included The Budweiser Girl series and “Custer’s Last Fight.”
In the 1880s, Adolphus Busch became the first brewer to use a multi-year, single-themed, coordinated advertising campaign when he introduced the Budweiser Girl wall hangings. These lithographic prints and self-framed tin signs lasted into the 1910s and consisted of nine different representations of beautiful women, most holding a strategically visible bottle of Budweiser.
By far, one of Anheuser-Busch’s most famous and recognized wall hangings was “Custer’s Last Fight.” Adolphus obtained ownership of the original Cassilly Adams painting in 1888. In 1896 the company began distributing thousands of lithographic renditions to saloons, hotels, restaurants and stores – making it one of Anheuser-Busch’s most successful advertising pieces.
In addition to trendsetting in point-of-sale, Adolphus pioneered the advertising technique known as the giveaway – inexpensive items like match safes or cork pulls that featured the Anheuser-Busch name or logo. The most well-known piece, the pocketknife, was used by Adolphus in place of a calling card and featured a peephole with his portrait.
Adolphus Busch was a master at marketing his products, realizing different brands suited different tastes. In the late 1890s and early 1900s, Anheuser-Busch had more than 15 brands on the market and targeted them at different consumers. For example, Michelob, introduced in 1896, was marketed as a “draught beer for connoisseurs” and limited to select, high-end, retail outlets.
Prohibition and Revival, 1920 – 1930s
National Prohibition went into effect in 1920. To stay in business during this time, Anheuser-Busch marketed more than 25 different non-alcohol products such as soft drinks, truck bodies and ice cream. Anheuser-Busch also continued to brew Budweiser, though it was de-alcoholized in accordance with the law. De-alcoholized Budweiser was advertised as conforming to the original Budweiser process and containing the same flavor and body, without the alcohol.
Upon repeal of Prohibition in 1933, Anheuser-Busch print advertisements, like “Something More Than Beer is Back,” emphasized industry, jobs and hospitality. The company also focused on restoring people’s confidence during the Depression years of the 1930s through advertisements such as 1936’s “Every Sip Helps Somebody.”
Regaining pre-Prohibition sales momentum was an uphill battle. During Prohibition, beer drinkers had become accustomed to the taste of bootleg beer. The “Five Day Test” or “Budweiser Test” was a campaign designed to re-educate beer drinkers about the taste of a true American lager. Consumers found if they drank Budweiser for five days and then tried a sweet beer, the traditional flavor of Budweiser would always triumph. Introduced in 1935, the campaign was so successful that variations of it lasted into the 1950s.
The Modern Marketing Age, 1950s – present
After World War II, Anheuser-Busch entered into a time of prosperity and growth. In 1955, August A. Busch, Jr. made a personal television appearance to introduce the first successful new beer brand since Prohibition, Busch Bavarian. To help market the brand, August Jr. tied Busch to America’s national pastime: baseball.
In the 1950s, Anheuser-Busch tapped into the growing medium of television and became the first brewery to sponsor a network television show, “The Ken Murray Show,” on CBS in 1950. Popular campaigns, such as “Pick-a-Pair,” which urged customers to buy not one but two six-packs at a time, helped make Anheuser-Busch the leading U.S. brewer in 1957 – a position it retains today.
In the 1970s, advertising featuring memorable slogans helped keep Anheuser-Busch’s products in the forefront of consumers’ minds. Budweiser’s 1979 “This Bud’s for You” campaign saluted everyday life, while late 1970s and early 1980s marketing for Busch featured the tag line “Head for the Mountains,” as well as the popular “Bussscchhh!” sound of a can being opened.
In April 1982, Budweiser Light was introduced nationally into the burgeoning light beer market and promoted as an extension of its namesake’s quality and heritage. Marketing played a key role in Bud Light’s introduction; the first advertising theme, “Bring out your Best,” focused on the classic Budweiser Clydesdales. In 1994, Bud Light became the number one favorite light beer in the United States thanks in part to popular slogans like “Make it a Bud Light.”
Today, Anheuser-Busch continues to satisfy diverse tastes by marketing more than 100 varieties of beer and alcohol beverages. In 2008, Anheuser-Busch celebrated its 10th consecutive USA TODAY “Ad Meter” victory. The USA TODAY “Ad Meter” is a real-time consumer poll that ranks Super Bowl ads throughout the game.