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Bud Lite Light Vs. Corona

Budweiser sells half of all beer sold in the United States. Corona Extra is the #1 selling imported beer. Who will win the ad campaign showdown of summer beers?

Most of you are probably reading this blog or listening to this podcast at work, or during your commute to and from work. But maybe, just maybe, you’re sitting on a pristine beach, with the sun beating down, toes in the sand, and reaching for an ice cold beer.

But what beer do you reach for to quench your thirst? Is it a traditional Corona Extra, or a newly marketed beer, Bud Light Lime. Maybe their marketing campaign influenced your decision. Let’s take a look.

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Last week I strategically timed my flight from New York to the Wired office in San Francisco to depart at 8pm Monday night, allowing me to watch Monday Night Football start to finish for the 6 hour flight. Genius, I know. Since I was a captive audience for commercials, I took notes on several competing products. Everyone loves beer, so we’ll cover that first and then do a speed round with some other ads.


According to the Crown Imports website, Corona Extra was introduced in the United States in 1981, and became the fastest growing imported beer in U.S. history. It is the:

  • #1 selling import in the U.S.
  • #1 selling beer in Mexico
  • #1 selling Mexican beer in the world
  • #6 selling beer overall in the U.S.

Why is that? I think one reason is because they are so laser focused on their marketing message. The site says ‘Corona delivers a unique fun, sun and beach state of mind.’ I bet you can ask 100 people what they think of when they think of Corona, and the vast majority of them will answer ‘the beach.’

In contrast to most beer ads that focus on over-the-top male humor, where just opening the bottle leads to a utopia of cars, women, and sports, Corona’s ads are consistent, relaxed, and make you want to be on a beautiful beach.

Check out the Corona Extra website and don’t tell me your next click isn’t on Travelocity to check the latest fares to Cancun.

All you need is a lounge chair and a fresh lime.


According to a recent article in the St. Louis business journal, Anheuser-Busch:

  • Had net sales of over $4 billion in the first quarter of 2008
  • Sold over 25 million barrels of beer in the US in Q1
  • Holds a 50.9% share of U.S. beer sales.

Earlier this year, they introduced Bud Light Lime, which they describe as ‘a premium light beer that combines the superior drinkability of Bud Light with a splash of 100% natural lime flavor.’

Obviously, they are competing with Corona. Over the summer, their commercials were very similar, positioning it as a great summer beer. Fine.

But here’s where my rant begins.

Check out the commercial that they ran during Monday night football.

The first part goes like this:

‘Summer and fall. They’re not that different. You fire up the same grill, rock the same gear, pump the same tunes, and chill with the same beer. Seasons change, tastes don’t.’

Wrong! Summer and fall are completely different!

They go on to show people not at the beach, but tailgating at a football game.

Let’s break that down for a second.
Same grill? No.
In the summer, it’s nice out. It’s relaxed. You’ve got time to stoke a charcoal based BBQ for hours on end. In the fall it gets cold. Charcoal is messy. Your best bet is to throw a small gas grill in your trunk, head to the stadium to tailgate, and do things that way.

Same gear? No.
The commercial shows a guy grabbing a traditional football jersey. Again, in the summer I’m throwing the football around on the beach barefoot, wearing a t-shirt and a bathing suit. In the fall, I’m going layers.

Same tunes? No.
At the beach you’re going to hear some reggae, some Jimmy Buffett, some Beach Boys. Stadium parking lots in the fall? I’m thinking something grittier like Pearl Jam or AC/DC.

Same beer? No.
Bud Light Lime might be a great alternative to Corona in the summer. And I have to remember that people tailgate for their teams in places like Miami, Arizona, Oakland, and Tampa. But when the weather gets below 40 degrees? Do you think their sipping light summery beers in Cleveland, Buffalo, Denver, or Green Bay? Not a chance. Hand me a thick lager that won’t freeze solid while I’m eating my bratwurst.

The second part says:

‘It’s the superior drinkability of Bud Lite, with a splash of 100% natural lime flavor.’

Here’s the two problems I have with this:

1)    Comparing it to Bud Lite? Who are they aiming this product at? It’s not the Budweiser people, they’re too hard core. Is it the Bud Lite group? Because I don’t know anyone drinking Bud Lite that says, ‘You know what this Bud Lite needs? Some lime!’

2)    They’re missing the most important selling point! Lime flavor, without the limes! That’s the biggest hassle with Corona.

  • First you have to remember to buy the limes. Someone always forgets.
  • Then you have to slice them up. That always makes a mess, gets juice everywhere, and everything gets sticky. And it’s an art to slice them thin enough that they fit in the bottle. And there’s a 9% chance that a drunk guest is going to slice a finger off. Not good.
  • Then you have to do the old ‘seal the bottle with your thumb and invert it so the lime sinks to the bottom’ trick. It’s harder than it looks, and at least once you’re going to have spraying beer all over your shirt. Did you know that sticking a lime wedge into the top of the bottle not only gives it flavor, but was to prevent flies from getting in your beer?

So in the ad campaign showdown, I think it’s pretty clear that I declare Corona the winner over Bud Light Lime.

But are you ready for the kicker? Anheuser-Busch actually has an equity interest in Grupo Modelo, Corona’s importer! What that means is that if Bud Light Lime WERE to succeed, it would cut into Corona’s market share and actually hurt Budweiser.

Ugh. I need a drink.

Before we wrap up, here’s a speed round of other three other competitive advertisements I saw:

GM is touting their employee discount. Sorry, but that’s now an old gimmick to me.

Toyota Tundra pickups stage those elaborate demonstrations, where giant steel pendulums almost crush the driver. Um, not sure when I’ll be in that situation, but I guess I get it. And how much did that set cost to build?

Meanwhile, Mazda enters a Roman coliseum to chants of Zoom Zoom forever. Well shot, but not much of a payoff.

The Winner for me? Believe it or not it was Hyundai, who had some of the worst cars on the planet 10 years ago, but has slowly and methodically built up their brand. In my notes I had the words ‘smart,’ ‘upscale,’ and ‘educated.’ Their commercials were solid.

I’ll take the fire-breathing dude pitching the Taco Bell Volcano Taco over standard subs from Subway and Quizno’s.

No contest. The baby doing online trades with E*Trade Mobile Pro saying the line ‘Hey girl, can I hit you back?’ Kills me.

Sam Waterson

The TD Ameritrade commercials with Law & Order’s Sam Waterston? I’m sorry, missed that one… I was distracted by his giant eyebrows.


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