Think back to the last beer commercial you saw on TV. Do you remember which brand it advertised? It was probably Molson or Coors, right? Over the last decade a particular brand has anchored itself in the beer world without throwing millions of dollars into billboards and television. Pabst Blue Ribbon, or PBR as its commonly abbreviated, experienced a huge uprising simply by doing what others aren’t; staying cheap and avoiding marketing. Keeping prices low keeps it in the public eye and popular with college students low on funds.
Today’s youth would be surprised to learn PBR’s heyday was the late 70s. It targeted a completely different demographic; the blue-collar working class. As the decades passed, its popularity fell by the wayside. In fact it wasn’t until 2002 that sales started to rise. Suddenly it wasn’t the beer your dad used to drink. College students started choosing it for their lower prices, and the fact that no one was telling them it was the hippest and sexiest choice worked wonders for the brand.
When you really break it down, it isn’t even known for its quality or taste. That itself is impressive. It’s not about what it tastes like but what it represents. All of a sudden it has a huge following for the reasons no multi-million dollar brewery would expect. Pabst’s aversion to traditional advertising is a new tactic for them. While the brand was started by the Pabst Brewing Company in 1844 there was a multitude of television commercials starting in the 1950s and onwards. They depicted the brand far more working class than today’s drinkers. Ironically its cheaper price point wasn’t one of their selling points back then. It was more about sophistication and taste. The company went into decline until it became hip to drink again.
Since its rise in power in the earlier 2000’s Pabst Blue Ribbon changed management. It was bought out by investor C.Dean Metropoulos in 2010. His pop culture savvy sons Evan and Daren, both in their late 20’s, represent the exact type of demographic Pabst avoided advertising to years ago. Since the leg work of revitalizing the brand was done it was all about keeping it up and the brothers were more than up to shining the beer in a new light. To put into perspective how much money they had, Daren purchased Hugh Hefner’s mansion for 18 million dollars in cash.
Since the buy out the brand has remained popular amongst youth. In both 2011 and 2012 the brewing company won the “Large Brewing Company of the year” award at the Great American Beer Festival. It’s still a strong seller in bars but since the buyout prices has gone up. While it still costs less than it’s competitors its taken a glitzier and more glamorous approach and tries a bit harder to be noticed by the movers and shakers of the entertainment world. For the most part the college crowd doesn’t care. They’re saving money and being seen with a brand people love.