Rolling Rock is slumping
Tom Dougherty, CEO – Stealing Share
13 April 2009
There’s promise in this beer
Recent news says that Anheuser-Busch InBev, the new company formed after Belgium-owned InBev purchased Anheuser-Busch, is considering selling the beer brand Rolling Rock due to its recent slump in sales.
There are a couple of interesting things in this matter. The main one, for me, is that Rolling Rock has some value if the right company would support the brand and give it an emotional context. Why? Because Rolling Rock has traditionally been one of the few beers with some brand equity that’s different than most in the beer category. Its green bottle, light taste and “small town” feel stands out in field where everybody looks the same.
It’s not uncommon for the brands within a market to be so identical, but the beer industry has been particularly bad at playing follow the leader. In this case, most follow Budweiser, especially in tone and personality. (Corona is one of the few brands that is both different and better and it remains America’s No. 1 import, even though its sales are also declining after years of growth.) How many times have you confused a Miller ad, for example, with a Bud commercial? Scratch that. You may have not even known it was Miller ad in the first place, so how could you notice the similarities?
At least Rolling Rock is recognizably different among consumers, even if the brand itself hasn’t been supported as it was in the past, which has led in part to its recent decline. (Also, since Anheuser-Busch has owned it, Rolling Rock’s marketing has become to look more like its market leader/owner.) It even has a mythology it can build around – the mystery of the “33” on the bottle. For any company looking for a beer brand whose equity has potential, Rolling Rock offers something more than just another Bud if done right.
P.S. – The irony here is that these decisions are coming out of Belgium, even though Budweiser (and even Rolling Rock) are brands built on being uniquely American. But InBev has experience here. It once owned Rolling Rock until it sold that brand to Anheuser-Busch a few years ago. InBev got the Rolling Rock brand back in the purchasing deal with Anheuser-Busch. Rolling Rock was doomed right then.
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