It was with sadness but not surprise that I read yesterday's interview of Richard Musson, the vice-president of marketing for Labatt Breweries of Canada in the Globe and Mail. Even with his focus on marketing, the answers come across like he is talking about about an unknown product from a continent you have never visited. Even his concluding summary gives one the yips:
Q: Was there anything you wanted to talk about that we didn't touch on?
A: No, we talked about Bud Light Lime. It's funny, when I came here two years ago, no one talked about Bud. They said, "Oh, it sells itself." I said, If you think that, in a few years' time, it'll stop selling itself. So I made a rule that, every presentation, we start with Budweiser. Otherwise you talk about the glamorous stuff, like Stella Artois - and in the end, what pays the bills is Budweiser.
For this to be the situation in Canada, the fact that Bud pays Labatt's bills is just weird. The flagship brand that kept Labatt afloat for decades, Blue, has been relegated to an upstate NY discount brand where a case can be bought for less than half the price it is offered a few miles to the north. And where is the Canadian nationalism? All the beer-like things mentioned by the brander are foreign - Mexican lime beer-like thing, Belgian pale ale beer-like thing and US eagle branded beer-like thing. An interview only ten years ago and certainly 20 years ago like this would have led to an immediate firing after outraged public outcry and even mockery of the very idea that Canadian beer is not the best in the world... even if it wasn't. It's like Canadian Tire no longer selling canoes, telling the market place that bass boats are all that people really want. Why doesn't the interviewer even raise the question?
And then there is that final point: how far do these trends have to go before we get to stop using the word "beer" to describe these fluids? How different is Bud Light Lime from Zima anyway?