Too Pricey?

Everyone around here is abuzz about the new Stella Artois billboards in RI and MA: just a glamour shot of the product with the old tagline “Perfection has its price.” The campaign’s been in use for at least six years, since this humorous ad came out in 2001. In some contexts (like on Boston’s Newbury St.) it could almost make sense. But next to a discount store in a low-income neighborhood? That’s inauspicious media placement at best. What if consumers took the tagline as a taunt? “You can’t afford this beer, so don’t try.” Lowe Worldwide has been handling the account for decades. While the campaign has been a success, do these details compromise the execution?

A little back-story… In 2002, Interbrew had a dream: to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. As the Wall Street Journal put it in April of 2002,

"Interbrew NV, the Belgium, brewer of Stella Artois, figures its future lies in snob appeal. By marketing a beer that is run-of-the-mill in Belgium as a premium label elsewhere and insisting foreign customers pay dearly for it, Interbrew aims to boost profitability and finally reach its goal of unseating Heineken NV as the world's second-largest beer maker in terms of revenue. Anheuser-Busch Co. of the U.S. is No. 1."

How is the strategy going? After aggressive marketing in trendy NYC night-spots, the beer has trickled down to restaurants and liquor stores across the country, and it still fetches a premium price. Interbrew has been reborn as InBev, and has surpassed its goal: the company is now the world’s biggest brewer by volume.

As a retired shopkeeper in Belgium told the Journal five years ago, "In Belgium, Stella is a beer fit for old peasants, Americans must be insane." Hey! That’s insane and thirsty, to you, bub.