I know, I know… I haven’t written anything in two months, and now, I’m writing about Budweiser!?  This is strange on so many levels!  Not the least of which is the fact that I’m not a big fan of the beer in the first place – in fact, I’ve never even tasted a frosty Bud… or whatever they’re calling it these days.  However, the iconic beer label came out with some news recently that really got my mind moving, especially when it comes to the church.  The Clydesdales – the majestic horses, which have made an appearance during every Super Bowl commercial season and holiday season that I can remember – are no longer going to be part of Budweiser’s marketing strategy.

As part of their strategy to reach the 21-27 year old group – of which, nearly 44% claim to have never even tried the beer – the King of Beers is switching up its marketing to try to target this age group.  What does that mean?  It means no more Clydedales, and a stronger emphasis on what they see as “young and hip”.

One of the possible issues in this new marketing strategy, as mention in this WSJ article:

By wooing new fans, Bud risks alienating core drinkers across rural America, said Tony Ponturo, a former Anheuser-Busch senior marketing executive. “If you try to be too young and too hip, you lose your base. They’ll say, ‘That’s not my Budweiser anymore.’ You have to start with a message that resounds with a new generation of people but doesn’t throw off the core drinker.”

Now, what does all of this have to do with the Church?

25% of Millenials – the same age group that Budweiser is going to start targeting – are more likely to say that they are unaffiliated with an particular religion.  In fact, of all generations, at 68%, Millennials are the lowest percentage that self-identify as “Christian” in America.  (You can read more about from this article).

In years past, Sunday was for church.  People got up and went on a regular basis.  That doesn’t happen any more.  In fact, some estimates put only 20% of the population in church on a given Sunday – and even that may be generous.  And what are the majority of churches doing to address this issue?  Well… not much.

You’ll hear the occasional lament about how young people just don’t make church a priority, but you won’t see a lot of efforts to change how church is done in order to be intentional about reaching younger generations.  Church still do a lot of what was done in the 1950’s – expect people to just show up on Sunday morning because that’s why Sunday morning exists.  Millennials want to know that they are making a difference.  They don’t want to sit in a worship service due to an old fashioned sense of duty.  There are so many options in their lives right now that they want to make sure that what they are doing is worth their time.  If it becomes apparent that it is a waste of time, if it’s boring, irrelevant or outdated, they will leave… and not come back.  A fact that Budweiser has found to be true.

It used to be that Budweiser was one of four beers that would be on draft at the local bar, but that has changed.  When you are one of the only games in town, you don’t have to be good.  With the influx of local, craft beers, younger generations are seeking other options.  There are new players on the field, and the competition means that what was once taken for granted is no longer.

I imagine there will be some people who get upset about Budweiser changing up their marketing strategy.  People tend to get bent out of shape when things that have been around for a while end up getting changed.  But it’s a risk that Budweiser has to take.  They have slowly been losing their market share over the last several years, and it won’t take much longer before Budweiser becomes obsolete in the market if something doesn’t change.  That’s a route that many brands have taken in the past.  In fact, you would be hard-pressed to find some of the top selling beers from the 1950’s – anybody imbibed in a Schlitz lately?  I’m guessing not; yet, it was the top selling beer in the 1950’s.

In changing up their marketing strategy, Budweiser runs the risk of losing some of its long-term customers.  But, really, the ones who truly enjoy the brew will continue to drink it – even if they don’t like the advertising.  And, while they risk some, they stand to gain more.  That’s the big lesson that the Church needs to learn from Budweiser here.

Changing things up in the church is always a scary proposition because it runs the risk of losing a few people who don’t like the changes.  However, if you always cater to those who are present, you will not bring in new people.  What happens when a church becomes more concerned with appeasing its current crowd and neglects reaching new people?  Well… it goes the way of Schlitz; it may still be around, but nobody is really sure why.