Natty Life: 5 Questions with Anheuser-Busch’s Chelsea Phillips

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Miller is not going to take Miller’s attacks any longer. That’s model Marisa Miller. And she’s not going to take the attacks on Anheuser-Busch from MillerCoors. Miller (the model) is responding on behalf of Natural “Natty” Light.

It all began last fall when Miller did what beer companies have rarely done over the years, directly call out their competitors. Miller went on to sell itself as having “Less Calories” and “Half the Carbs” or its Bud rival. In response, Anheuser-Busch has enlisted model Miller to point out that Natty Light—Budweiser’s Anheuser-Busch family cousin—has one fewer calorie than Miller Lite. Brandchannel.com spoke with Chelsea Phillips, VP of Value Brands at Anheuser-Busch about the new campaign, craft beer competition, social media and what it means to “Live Natty.”

Chelsea Phillips

How did the brand come up with the idea to approach Marisa Miller about this campaign?

Our Natural Light team and partners are always thinking outside the box for the brand, and this idea is no different. So when that “Lite” beer started drawing comparisons, we decided it was time for us to have a little fun. We believe that life is serious, Natty isn’t, and this outlook is how we came up with the idea to work with a Miller. And of all the Millers out there, we could think of no one better than Marisa—a Miller who prefers to act (and drink) Natural.

Why is Natural Light and not Bud Light responding to Miller Lite?

Given our personality, Natural Light is the perfect brand to leverage a partnership like this—along with our “Natty Time” ad—resulting in playful, light-hearted content allowing Natural Light to turn up the heat and take on Marisa’s namesake. All of our consumer touch points are specifically thought out so that they resonate strongly with those out there who–like Natty–don’t take things too seriously, and are all about having a good time with their good friends… All with a good beer in tow. These are the folks that we know will get a kick out of our new campaign with Marisa.

With the explosion of craft beers and shelves filled with more beer options than ever, how does Anheuser-Busch see its value brands standing out?

The value segment is often overlooked. But in reality, it accounts for 24% of total beer sales, meaning almost one of every four beers consumed across America is a value beer. Overall, the segment has been identified as a key stronghold at A-B, and we are making investments to maintain relevance and attract new drinkers from the competition across total alcohol. Our strategy has not changed—we want to maintain our leadership position in the high-volume value segment.

Anheuser-Busch is the leader in the value segment with the top-three selling value brands in the United States—Busch, Busch Light, and Natural Light represent the only value brands in the top ten beer brands in the nation.  Recent programming from both Busch and Natural Light continue to elevate the value segment, and we are excited for the future potential of our value portfolio.

“One fewer calorie,” “Lighter than Lite” and “Spelled right because it’s brewed right” are all volleys between Miller and Anheuser-Busch’s respective light beers. Is this kind of good-natured ribbing good for all brands involved?

Our recent marketing strategy—including the partnership with Marisa and “Natty Time” ad spot—are all about bringing some fun back to beer advertising. We don’t take ourselves too seriously, and throwing out lines like “lighter than lite,” “one calorie fewer” and “spelled right because it’s brewed right” are just light-hearted responses to the recent jabs from the competition.

Natty Light’s social media feeds—especially Instagram—have successfully made “Natty” into a lifestyle brand. There’s even an online shop. How big is Natural Light’s social media team and how do you decide what to feature to communicate what it means to “Live Natty?”

We’re proud to call ourselves a “challenger brand.” While Natural Light is the fifth best-selling beer in the US, we manage to do this on a relatively thin budget compared to our competition. We can’t—and don’t need to—outspend other brands with things like a large social media team; we just are more efficient and pride ourselves on the ability to outthink other brands with our nimble and creative programming. Those on Natty’s marketing team fit the description of our target drinker to a T and therefore have an understanding of the Natty lifestyle and what marketing efforts will ultimately resonate with consumers.

As you’ve seen, we’ve turned over a new leaf over the past year or so, focusing on being much more than just a good beer at a good price—Natural Light needed to be relevant again, with a bold voice and a distinct personality. We’ve put forth engaging programming and content as well as aligned ourselves with the brands, products, outlets, events and relatable influencers who exude the aforementioned Natural Light lifestyle.


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