July 17, 2012
Tom Rotunno has a fascinating article about beer and President Obama. I didn't realize for example, that the President is the first to home brew inside the White House (as opposed to at his personal home). Even more interesting is how beer plays into campaigning. While in Ohio recently, Obama drank Bud Light. Rotunno writes...
Marketing consultant Laura Ries thinks Bud Light is a good fit for the President.This is an interested tidbit about American business and politics. Even though both Bud Light and Miller Light are owned by foreign companies (InBev of Belgium and SABMiller of the UK) the typical Joe SixPack either doesn't know or doesn't care. He still considers it a true American product.
“Going with Bud Light is a safe choice and is probably the best choice,” says Ries. “Bud says 'leader.' I think it is still believed by Joe SixPack across the nation to be an 'all-American' beer. Even though it is owned by a foreign conglomerate now, most people don’t think about it. The average person thinks of Budweiser as an American choice.”
In a way, this is very weird, it would be akin to the President shopping at Ikea (a giant foreign conglomerate) to show his status as a regular American guy. OK, it's not really the same, because most people know Ikea is a Scandinavian corporation that was at no point an American company. In that sense, it's more a question of history and perception.
But still, there are tons of actual honest-to-god American beer companies. It's just that they're called "craft breweries" and the Joe SixPacks of America don't buy craft beer because it's more expensive and viewed as culturally elitist. Bud Light is the workin' man's beer and Joe SixPack probably wouldn't be caught dead drinking a Dogfish Head Festina Peche.
(from john holzer on Flickr)
Whatever you think of their beverages, you can't deny that Dogfish Head is the kind of small business that politicians love to talk about. If Dogfish Head sold hardware instead of beer, it's easy to imagine the President shopping there rather than Home Depot.
For this reason, I'm rooting for the President to take a tour of one of my favorite breweries. Again, Rotunno writes:
So how does Cleveland-based Great Lakes Brewing feel about the President missing the opportunity to sample their brew?In politics, the emphasis is often on small business. If you look at what happened to beer companies that were acquired by the beer conglomerates, the results are often depressing. Rolling Rock, for example, had an operations shake-up at its Latrobe Pennsylvania brewery after Anheuser–Busch bought the company and consolidated its operations. The brewery changed hands a number of times. Eventually jobs were lost in a blue-collar town that really couldn't afford to lose jobs.
“We’re a little disappointed that he didn’t opt for one of Ohio’s own outstanding handcrafted brews,” says Marissa DeSantis, a Great Lakes Brewing spokeswoman.
With Ohio being a battleground state, the President will certainly be back and Great Lakes is offering him a second chance to taste their beer and discuss the impact of craft breweries on the economy.
“The next time he returns, we’d love to give him a VIP brewery tour and tasting at Great Lakes Brewing Company,” says DeSantis. “(Great Lakes) is able to directly give back to our community in a way that big brewers can’t, which we love and take very seriously. The fact that we are able to grow and provide jobs in a struggling economy proves how valuable the American craft beer industry is."
For the President, it's a calculated risk. He can use small breweries as an example of small-business success in the economy. Or he can say nothing, keeping drinking Bud Light on the campaign trail, and avoid the risk of being labeled as elitist for buying a product that's made in breweries across America.