Bud Light Seltzer has a problem: People still think there’s beer in the spiked seltzer.
More than half of the thousands of people Bud Light Seltzer surveyed incorrectly believe that the alcoholic seltzer contains beer, which is a self-admitted problem for the three-year-old brand because it’s a “barrier to people that considering trying us,” Steve Wolf, vice president of marketing for Bud Light Extensions, told CNN.
“We launched Bud Light Seltzer with the Bud Light name in 2020 because it came with immediate benefits in terms of recognizability and distribution,” he said. “Understandably, it comes with some confusion that we need to make sure we hit directly on to make sure people are very clear whats in our product.”
To that end, Bud Light Seltzer is rolling out a new, year-long ad campaign with the slogan “100% Hard Seltzer, 0% Beer.” The debut TV spot shows a Bud Light Seltzer delivery truck rolling through a brown-colored desert with colorful bubbles floating through the back. Wolf said the bubbles are an “incredibly powerful way to show the variety of flavors and lightness our product brings.”
It’s a big change from Bud Light Seltzer’s previous ads that used humor. In one ad shown during the 2020 Super Bowl, Bud Light Seltzer enlisted rapper Post Malone and showed the inside of his brain trying to decide to either buy Bud Light or Bud Light Seltzer from a convenience store. (He ends up buying both.) Another TV ad featured a toll-free phone number for confused customers to call to answer their questions about the spiked seltzer.
“Humor is really difficult to break through,” Wolf said about the brand’s former ads, adding that they weren’t “direct enough” in educating people about Bud Light Seltzer. The new ad has a stronger emphasis on the “100% Hard Seltzer, 0% Beer” slogan, and is the brand’s first consistent message since launch.
Customers won’t see any changes to the Bud Light Seltzer name, packaging or logo. But they will notice a new limited-time offering called “Sangria Splash,” which is the brand’s first time using real fruit juice in the malt-based seltzer. It’s following a broader industry trend of people craving “full flavored” beverages as canned, spirit-based cocktails with punchier taste profiles grow in popularity at the expense of seltzer.
Bryan Roth, an analyst for Feel Goods Company and editor of the alcohol beverage newsletter, Sightlines+, told CNN that Bud Light Seltzer’s confusing identity is not an “ideal position to be in for yet another year.”
“The more time Bud Light Seltzer spends working to convince hard seltzer drinkers there’s no beer in it, the less it’s able to talk about the things that actually matter, like flavor,” Roth said.
Spiked seltzer bubbled on to the scene in the United States about five years ago. Drinkers were immediately attracted to the new alcoholic drink that offers zero carbs, few calories and a fruity taste in a convenience of a can.
However, the novelty has fallen off and sales have dropped forcing the some of the top-selling brands to introduce spirit-based cocktails and product redesigns. For example, drinkers would rather drink a tequila-based canned margarita over a a malt-based, margarita flavored seltzer.
White Claw remains the top-selling brand, Truly is in second and Bud Light Seltzer is in third place, according to data from IRI, a Chicago-based market research firm. Sales of Bud Light Seltzer have fallen about 24% last year, the firm said, which is worse than the seltzer category on average, which fell nearly 15%.
Sales of seltzers are “maturing,” according to Kaleigh Theriault, a thought leadership manager at NIQ. She told CNN that the seltzer category now has 361 brands fighting for attention and many have roll out new flavors to entice drinkers with varying results.
“Some have worked well, but typically only for a short period of time as consumers continue to seek something new and different,” she said. “Many seltzer buyers are just spending less on seltzers, with a third of volume loss due to shifting to other categories, like spirits-based cocktails.”
Despite the competition and slowing sales, Bud Light Seltzer is “here to stay and is not going anywhere,” Wolf said.