Is there a “brand space” for bad beer?

An interesting topic in today’s Retail Wire, especially for a blogger from Milwaukee: The discussion centers around several “budget” brands of beer (Busch, Milwaukee’s Best, Icehouse and Keystone) with some perceived negatives in their brand image. The question posed to panelists: Do these brands deserve to live? Here’s my take on the subject:

The common theme here is that all four brands in question are positioned as budget alternatives to the national brands with big ad budgets. Many of the criteria used to judge their viability depend in part on brand imagery, which in the case of these brands focuses on “cheap,” not quality, reputation or impression. These are not status brands by any means.

But is there anything inherently wrong with this brand position? Obviously the brewers in question have identified a niche and target market for these products, and (based on their longevity) have figured out how to make money selling them. Perhaps the best advice is to reformulate the beers if changing tastes are driving up the “negatives” on flavor, but continue to fill the market space for this sort of product. In the meantime, these brands are probably “cash cows,” in large part because they keep the assembly lines running with very little marketing cost.

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