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Thirst and the Culture Wars

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Ya Bruddah Hank here!

I was a sailor, and sailors like beer, so what did the 20-plus-year-old me do whenever he hit a port of call? Yep, my fellow shipmates and I would order up enough grog for the crew (we traveled in packs of 5 to 10) to slake their thirst at that particular establishment, pay our tab, plus a generous tip, and we’d shove off to the next watering hole in an orderly fashion.

Being the connoisseurs that we, the world-traveled sophisticates were, we’d easily discern the fruity overtones and distinctiveness of the hops grown and harvested in Sardinia, fermented in Naples, and bottled and consumed in Rome vs. those brought to fruition on the sun-facing slopes of La Spezia. Indeed, my companions and I would while away the hours debating the existentialism of Descartes vis a vis the plaid determinism of Kant over the finest brews the continent of Europe proffered us by their best brew meisters. Such was the lot of US Navy sailors in the 1980s.

OK…I lied- a lot. We did run in packs, but it was more like 50 to 100 sailors at a time. We would storm a bar like it was a D-day beach in Normandy, holding beer bottles like 1911s from the previous bar we’d “landed on.” No bar could deny the cry of “GIVE US BEER, OR WE’LL TRASH DIS JOINT!!!” and nervously, they’d literally dump cases of beer onto the counters to be greedily scooped up by the screaming hoards in Blue Crackerjack Uniforms. We were under strict orders to not destroy, rape, pillage, or besmirch the honor of any female caught in the midst of our maneuvers, and we were to pay for all beer. The money would be thrown at the barkeep until he said “ENOUGH!!!” and “GET OUT!!” and off we went to the next watering hole to drink whatever swill was available. Quite frankly, my memories of the many bars, the many beers, the few fights, and the lovely ladies who joined us (I’m fairly sure they were all lovely) grow dimmer with every passing year, but for the life of me, I can’t remember the brand or brands of beer I consumed in Europe. I no longer drink alcohol as my exposure to it was brief, tasteless, and gave me more headaches than fun, and as I watch the goings on at the Anheuser-Bush company and their handling of the Bud-light fiasco, I’m convinced I’ll never have another beer again.

I don’t remember having to belong to a certain group to be qualified to buy a certain beer. I guess if there’s a beer that caters specifically to Sephardic Jews kicked out of Spain in the late 1800s, I’d have to friggin’ buy it lest I’m made to feel even MORE guilty about not supporting a worthy brand. Why did a smart person who went to college for smart people, who then went on to major in business at a school where the smartest businesspeople went, decide that membership in the Bud-light club needed to be canceled for everyone but a select few? I get it if Rolex doesn’t want a bunch of drunk sailors wearing its watches, but they don’t go out of their way to tell Sailors they don’t want their business. The way I see it, it wasn’t that the regular Joes of the world decided to destroy a famous brand because they’re spiteful and hate gay people. The magic of the internet presented the Super-Duper Marketing Guru saying that her brand did not want regular Joes drinking her company’s beer and then pushed forth her ideal consumer: a guy wearing my 1977 prom date’s outfit and my mom’s wig. So, the regular Joes found another beer that actually wanted their business.

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Whom you choose to love is your business. I don’t want to know, and I don’t really care. I dare say until a few months ago, most of us old, beer-drinking sailors didn’t care either. We drank beers with fewer calories so we could drink more beer. You made it; we wanted it, we bought it. Then you told us “ENOUGH!!!” and “GET OUT!!!” so we did and took our business elsewhere.

Hey Budweiser, want to hear what a former drinker would like to hear to be tempted to pop the tab on a cold one (one of yours, of course) again?
Apologize to your former base. Say, how stupid it was to hire someone who would be so condescending to your customers. Promise to NEVER, EVER again inject anything into your branding that’s divisive. Promise to support the activities that your customers like. I’m thinking NASCAR, football, hockey, little league baseball, volleyball, etc.

Run stupid, silly, risqué ads along with ads showing a lot of male bonding. Catering to men is not a dreadful thing. Don’t dehumanize women but show the sexes having a fun time together. If you want to throw in a gay couple or two, I won’t object if it’s not blatant, as they’re beer drinkers too.
Show that your brand is something people can gather around on, disagree around but enjoy each round in good company.

Do that or most of that, and with my Rabbi’s blessing, I may buy and take a sip of Bud Light. Just don’t expect me to drink the whole thing, memories of Rosie from Toulon still haunt me, but that’s a story for another day.

“Bruddah Hank” was born in Brooklyn, but has lived all over the US and abroad. A deeply spiritual man yet circumspect person, he learned the most valuable lesson at the feet of a Hawaiian Kupuna: time is the only gift that can never be taken away. Spend it wisely.

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