No doubt the staff over at MillerCoors are cracking open a few tall crispy boys this week in celebration of a court ruling that bars Bud Light from using "corn syrup" language on its products.
I too raise a fine pilsner with fewer calories and half the carbs to Miller Lite. But not because of federal judge William Conley’s decision. I cheer because it underscores the cheap, low blow advertising which should have never been.
Anheuser Busch’s ill-fated crusade for beer ingredient transparency kicked off at the Super Bowl back in February. The ad it aired blatantly calls out Miller Lite and Coors Light and "shames" them for brewing with corn syrup.
To be clear: MillerCoors does use corn syrup in the fermentation process for both these brands, but it is not present in the final product. Miller Lite stresses this is for taste.
And just to clarify: corn syrup is simply glucose -- the most basic sugar molecule. It’s commonly used in commercially-prepared food as a thickener and sweetener. Is it bad for you? Well -- like most things in life -- yes, if consumed in excess.
But what MillerCoors lawyers had a collective hernia about on game day was the erroneous link consumers were in danger of drawing between its product and high-fructose corn syrup.
Let’s talk science for context: While regular corn syrup finds its way into the bloodstream and is used by your tissues for energy, fructose enters the intestines and is routed off to the liver which will convert it into fat if the organ is dealing with an overload. This will ultimately exacerbate metabolic syndrome (a group of conditions that increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes). Obviously, it’s attracted some serious negative press over the years.
The only thing Bud Light did successfully was create a health scare. With tenuous links. In a quest for transparency, this comes off as very murky.
Creative minds at Anheuser Busch and agency partner Wieden+Kennedy struck gold when they built out the Medieval platform that birthed "Dilly Dilly!" and offered the opportunity to play host to countless scenarios. But the brand threw a grenade into its fantasy world the moment it decided to use it to pick a school playground-style fight. It’s desperate and unnecessary for an already globally-loved name.
Bud Light’s not the only brand guilty of this stooping tactic. There’s a Microsoft ad running right now that directly compares its new Surface 2 to an Apple laptop, featuring a guy called Mackenzie "Mac" Book. Why? There’s more than enough free media to be earned via YouTube tech heads who devote their channel to comparisons. Meanwhile, Apple runs its "Behind the Mac" drive which focuses on creative inspiration and product quality. I know where I’d rather put my marketing dollars.
Transparency is queen right now. And consumer demand for it will never die. Brands need to enter the conversation intelligently. Bud Light failed to do so. It threw the first punch in a recess scrap based on spurious chatter. That’s tantamount to bullying. And no one wants to drink with a bully.