Ask any regular citizen about the legal environment in the US – especially when it comes to lawsuits – and they will be able to share with you any number of ridiculous lawsuits over the years. Still, there are plenty of lawsuits that are justified and a recent one might hurt one of the most iconic and powerful American brands: Budweiser.
Water in Your Bud
This morning, according to Maryclaire Dale for the Associated Press, “beer lovers across the US have accused Anheuser-Busch of watering down its Budweiser, Michelob and other brands.” The class-action suits are after millions of dollars in damages for the alleged false advertising and shady practice of watering down the ‘King of Beers.’
There could be some bite behind this lawsuit. Apparently the information came from former employees from various levels of the company. They have claimed that the watering-down is, as Maryclaire quotes the lead lawyer, “a simple cost-saving measure, and it’s very significant.” Budweiser quickly responded, denying all claims and stating that Budweiser uses, as Sara Sjolin for MarketWatch quotes the VP of brewing, “the most sophisticated process control technology in the world” in order to adhere to the highest standards of quality and ensure alcohol content is correct.
Is that Enough?
Even though Budweiser responded immediately, is it really enough these days? With social media now so extremely prominent, the speed that information gets around is mind-boggling. Even if this lawsuit gets thrown out, the damage might already be done. You can bet this story is moving like lightning throughout the blogosphere, Twitter, Facebook, and other platforms.
Just like the blackout mishap during the Super Bowl and the great timely tweets by Audi, Oreo, and others, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a rush of competitors take advantage of this bad press. Twitter and Facebook will be great platforms for competitor brands to jokingly (or maybe very seriously) market their products as superior to Anheuser-Busch because of this alleged watering-down of its beer.
Maker’s Mark Example
Maker’s Mark a few weeks ago came out stating they would water down their bourbon from 90 proof to 84 proof in an apparent attempt to improve sales. Roger Dooley wrote about the fiasco on Forbes. After days of relentless “public flogging” the company had to reverse its decision.
Of course, the situation for Budweiser is a bit different. If the lawsuit goes through or remains in the press, it’s going to constantly eat away at its brand. If the allegations ring true, Anheuser-Busch will suffer immensely. They can’t just take it back like Maker’s Mark did. Roger Dooley again at Forbes puts it plainly, if untrue, Budweiser needs “to crush these allegations quickly and convincingly … if they expect to avoid major damage to their brands.”
Any Press Is Good Press?
“Any press is good press” might hold true for celebrities, but for the most part, brands do not want bad press. Bad press moves even faster than it ever has in the past and even a mistake can harm a brand immensely. Budweiser truly does need to aggressively and continuously address these allegations. Figuring out how to do that and still come across to the public as not trying to save their butts will be tough, but I think a marketing team with the resources of Budweiser should be up to the challenge.
What do you think about the allegations against Budweiser? Has the damage already been done?
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