Pabst Blue Ribbon and Negative Brand Perception, How Word of Mouth (WOM) and Brand Evangelists Can Impact Your Business

Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer (PBR) and Brand Evangelists.As we lead up to Labor Day, and all the barbecues that go along with it, I thought it would be fitting to write a post about beer. That’s right, beer and barbecues. I don’t really drink much, but I feel like having a burger at a barbecue sometimes requires a beer. ;-) A few weeks ago, we had some of our friends over for a barbecue. One of my friends, Chris Sullivan, walked in and I noticed he had brought a mini cooler with some beer. As we started the festivities, Chris asked if I wanted a beer. “Sure, I said, what do you have?” He took out a Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR) and handed it to me. –I’ll pause my story here for a second.– Pabst Blue Ribbon? Are you serious? Did I time warp back to college? Are we stocking a fraternity party? Seriously, I was not ready to hear that brand! Then it hit me…Chris knows his alcohol. He’s a connoisseur of beer and wine. Could Chris be on to something?? Back to the story. I looked at Chris grabbing the red, white and blue can of PBR, and I asked, “Is this good?” Chris didn’t even pause. “It’s the best value on the beer market”. It’s an outstanding beer and it’s only $6 for a 12 pack. “OK, Chris, I’ll give it a shot. “ I took a drink of PBR and let me tell you, it was good. No, it was darn good! As I thought, Chris knew his stuff. Then we spent the next 10 or 15 minutes talking about Pabst Blue Ribbon, the awards it has one, how long it’s been around, etc. I also brought one over to my wife. She loved it too. And, as I looked at the 12 packs that had cost me $15 each sitting on the sidelines of our party, I couldn’t help but think that PBR may be the greatest barbecue find on the face of the earth. Yes, a bit dramatic, but I was blown away.

WOM and Brand Evangelists

Let me dissect this Word of Mouth Marketing experience for you and for Pabst Brewing Company. First, they obviously have a brand perception problem. Both my wife and I laughed when PBR was mentioned, but we ended up loving the product. So how can PBR (or any company for that matter) overcome a negative brand perception? I believe that loyal customers are part of the answer. Chris is a brand evangelist and clearly communicated the benefits of the product. In addition, Chris is a trusted source of information. It’s not like he rolled up to my house by chance, right? So, how can PBR foster Word of Mouth Marketing with the Chris’s of the world? That’s the key. I don’t think advertising would cut it for me. I would have laughed while watching a commercial, hearing a radio jingle, or being bombarded with display advertising. But Chris got through. If I were PBR, I would reach out to brand evangelists and empower them. Maybe they can set up a dedicated WOM program, empower their brand evangelists, recognize them publicly, and harness what every company is trying to harness, Word of Mouth Marketing (WOM). Seriously, it could be the most cost effective campaign they ever launched and could generate high value customers. That’s a nice segue to my next point. ;-)

PBR and Me, Second Generation WOM

How did Chris’s first generation WOM impact PBR? Well, now I won’t shut up about Pabst Blue Ribbon. I’ve told dozens of people about it already, including my father in law, my brother in law, my friends and coworkers, and even random people buying beer. I’m serious, I think it’s a shame that most people don’t know how good PBR is! So, between me and Chris, PBR has 2 brand evangelists that are spreading the word like wildfire. Imagine if PBR had 100, 500, or 1000 evangelists like Chris spreading the word. Link in a PBR ambassadorship program and they’ve got themselves a serious WOM campaign. PBR, if you are listening, act on this…and fast. As a marketer, I’d be shocked if you couldn’t increase revenue significantly if you launched a program like this. Why? Because you have an outstanding product and most people don’t know it’s that good. Your brand needs help.

Help Educate Others About Your Brand

To summarize, if your product has a brand perception problem, and you truly believe that you have a great product, tap into your loyal customer base for help. My guess is that they will be happy to help you. Sure, you should structure a WOM program, but the benefits should greatly outweigh any cost involved. And, the beauty of brand evangelists is that they don’t go away when your advertising spend goes away (like paid search, tv advertising, display advertising, etc.) Chris is a powerful force of WOM for PBR, but I ask you…how many Chris’s are out there waiting to be unleashed on their respective communities? In marketing terms, it’s low cost, high value communications, with high impact results. Why wouldn’t you try this?

Now go out there and try some PBR during your Labor Day picnics! You won’t be disappointed. Feel free to come back to this post and let me know what you think of the beer. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Glenn Gabe

PBR Brand Evangelist

1-888-PBR-POWER (ok, I’m kidding with the phone number, but the email address works!) :-)