Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 


I've never thought of Russians as being excessively gullible.

Well, save for seeming to swallow whole the musings of Vladimir Putin.

What's curious, though, is how a bastion of American imperialism has suddenly taken a grip on Russian throats.

This Bud's For You, Tovarishch.

Yes, the American heartland's most traditional beer is a big success in Russia.

Here's the curious thing, though. It's marketed not as the essential everyday beer of the collective farmer.

No, this Bud's a luxury.

As Bloomberg reports it, Budweiser appeals to the "younger, more discerning drinker."

This seems odd.

Can it be that in a country surrounded by nations that make wonderful  beer -- Poland and the Czech Republic, for example -- young Russians think Budweiser is the apogee of hop and change?

It seems that Anheuser-Busch InBev has been quite clever. While marketing Bud as a premium beer, it hasn't given it the most exalted premium pricing when compared with other imports.

Moreover, it isn't actually made in St. Louis and dragged through the cornfields by Clydesdales all the way to Moscow.

It's brewed in Russia, saving so much time, money and exchange rate fluctuations.

And then Budweiser did something even more clever: its started to get involved in a  traditional bastion of American sports. Yes, soccer.

It's sponsoring the 2018 World Cup, the one that so many countries are looking forward to. Suddenly, then, it's simultaneously American and quintessentially European.

Or perhaps it's just so closely associated with soccer that the "young, more discerning" drinker can't get enough.

It's strange how some nations view the products of others with envy and admiration.

I've always been moved (to tears, you understand) by visitors to America who believe that Abercrombie and Fitch is the apogee of taste and style.

They seem not to realize that it was voted America's Most Hated Retailer recently.

They seem not to realize that the clothes are, oh, please don't get me started.

Equally, I shuddered once at a Hertz rental counter in LA when a customer service agent tried to "upgrade" me from a Lincoln Town Car to, I can barely say it, a Volvo.

I was born in Europe and we always thought Volvos slightly dull, just as we always thought Town Cars cool because they were patronized by celebrities and drug dealers.

And, who knows, celebrity drug dealers.

There was even a time when Budweiser was thought cool in the UK. (Circa 1985ish.)

Marketing is about manipulating and confirming perceptions. If you can make your customers believe that they're enjoying something worthwhile, you might see profit margins rise.

Maintaining your premium position, though, is not an easy task.

If your target is the supposedly younger drinkers, their tastes may not remain static for long -- however "discerning" they might claim to be.

On the other hand, perhaps the idea that so many young Russians are drinking Budweiser is their idea of subtle protest.

They hold that fine red, white and blue bottle and think to themselves: "One day, I'll meet President Trump."