Bud Light debuts alien cans despite ‘Storm Area 51’ event cancellation

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Dive Brief:

  • Bud Light will release a limited-edition alien-themed can, despite a previous campaign’s failure to garner 51,000 retweets of a corresponding tweet, according to press materials shared with Marketing Dive. The cans were originally planned to coincide with the viral “Storm Area 51” Facebook event that has since been canceled.
  • The cans are now available in Nevada, Arizona and California. Bud Light is sponsoring the Area 51 Celebration music festival in Las Vegas on Sept. 19, where the brand has stocked a fridge with the cans in the VIP section of the Luxor Hotel and Casino. The fridge, available from Sept. 13 to Sept. 20, is locked and requires an “alien finger scan” to open.
  • For those outside of the sale area, Bud Light is selling limited-edition merchandise that matches the can design. The line includes koozies, shirts, hats and bomber jackets.

Dive Insight:

Bud Light in July promised to debut an Area 51-themed label if the announcement tweet was shared at least 51,000 times, but despite it falling short several thousand retweets, the brand said it’s producing these cans in response to consumer interest.

It’s possible Bud Light had invested too much in the cans, merchandise and ad production to not move forward, or the company believes that people in the area will still embrace the alien-themed messaging. After all, there was always a high probability this event would not happen, as the Air Force had warned people not to storm the military base.

By extending the campaign beyond selling special cans in a limited area, Bud Light can make the most of its efforts to drum up brand buzz through online sales of merch and social media content. The coordinating apparel taps into a broader trend around branded merchandise that’s many big CPG and QSR marketers have used to turn their products into lifestyle brands. Bud Light last month teamed up with musician Post Malone on a limited fashion collection.

Likewise, the concert sponsorship and special VIP fridge allows Bud Light to boost the campaign with an experiential element that could give consumers an additional way to interact with the brand. Requiring an “alien fingerprint” to open the fridge demonstrates that Bud Light is trying to match the authentic tone of the original event, and is a creative twist on the brand’s sports-themed Victory Fridge effort.

Despite the satirical nature of the event, more than 2 million people said they’d attend “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us” event before it was canceled. Bud Light was not the only brand seeking to capitalize on the event’s viral momentum to be part of the social media conversation, as Arby’s planned to bring its food truck to the area on Sept. 20.

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