Trust-busting Big Beer with archived corporate cringeposts
Just some fun-lovin’ booze brands havin’ a normal one online!
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Yesterday, for reasons unknown but probably stupid, the American division of Kirin Ichiban logged onto Twitter and began to post. The brand has had an account on the platform since 2013, but waited a solid nine years before sending its first tweet, which is weird but sorta funny. I can’t fault them for simply never tweeting—it’s the smart move. (See also: Pabst, ass-eating et al.) Weird and much less funny: Kirin’s first, extremely wooden message—“Well. Well. Well. Looks like there's another beer on the internet.”—was immediately met with similarly stiff replies from nine other beer/beer-adjacent brands: Michelob Ultra, Busch Light, Shock Top, Shop Beer Gear, Estrella Jalisco, Rolling Rock, Stella Artois, Presidente, and NÜTRL. Look, everybody! Just some fun-lovin’ booze brands havin’ a normal one online! Except…
As astute readers will surely point out, every single one of these brands is owned/operated by or affiliated with Anheuser-Busch InBev—including Kirin, which has had a brewing and distribution deal with the world’s biggest beer company since 1996, which turned into a marketing, brewing, and distribution deal in 2006, which turned into a “deepen[ed] sales partnership” in 2016. With that context, this little exchange comes into sharper, more alienating focus. It’s not a so-late-it’s-cringe multi-firm effort to reproduce the Denny’s-Wendy’s-Steakumm inter-brand Twitter rapport of yester-decade; it’s all of that, but coordinated by one firm—maybe one global marketing team, or even a single ABI marketer atop the Hootsuite hierarchy—across the many seemingly disparate brands it controls. Incredibly bleak, and yet bizarrely familiar…
To the American drinking public (if not the American politics/media mind-meld) it’s true that “Twitter is not real life;” it’s also true that there are far more sinister consequences of corporate consolidation and globalization than bad brand posts. But consider this: if conglomerates like ABI—which along with rival Molson Coors, accounts for a full 65% of U.S. beer revenues, lol—will go to these lengths to feign differentiation between its various beer lines to customers when the stakes are basically nil, just imagine the maneuvers they’re preparing in case the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice ever get serious about enforcing those antitrust regulations on the U.S. beer business that the Biden administration has been hinting at. Beyond deleting these wretched tweets, I mean. That, presumably, will be Maneuver No.1—though now that they’ve been archived in digital amber, Wayback Machine-equipped trust-busters will have no trouble digging them up, should they eventually so choose.
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Which itself turned into a class-action lawsuit over the beer’s apparent-but-not-actual Japanese provenance, settled out of court in 2015. Globalization: it’s complicated!