Posted 13 September 2009
Honestly, do you read blogs?
Like regularly. Or occasionally? Irrespective of who is writing
them? I view the so-called “citizen journalism” with some
scepticism, believing that only trained journalists can
understand the exactitude and ethics involved in reporting news.
But I admit I enjoy reading
the lager-heads’ blog at
www.stltoday.com which acts as a kind of
blogosphere watchdog on what AB-InBev get up to in the United
If you have been following
events on the Web, you will remember that a veritable blogstorm
descended on InBev (also variously called InBred or InBarf) when
they took over American icon Anheuser-Busch for USD 52 billion
The man at the centre of
feverish outrage was CEO Carlos Brito, immediately branded an
enemy of the people because of his reputation as a no-frills,
no-thrills severe cost-cutter.
Had he been a politician, Mr
Brito would have been told by his advisors a year ago to assign
a handful of nerdy young men to the task of blogging for him.
In the U.S., where everybody
with internet access seems to be writing a blog or at least
contributing to one, such a move would have made Web denizens
take note: Taco-boy is really running a ballsy campaign to
counter the slam against him.
Alas, during the A-B takeover
proceedings, InBev only posted a series of quasi-journalistic
interviews with Mr Brito and spindoctor Steve Lipin on their Web
site and left it at that. In Leuven they probably thought: “Why
should we care about some irreverent but mostly irrelevant
American bloggers? Didn’t InBev make A-B’s shareholders very
rich and very happy?”
Perhaps it is because I happen
to live in Mr Rumsfeld’s Old Europe that I sometimes wonder if
the blogosphere really has an impact on real life. I mean if all
the collected outrage that can be found on
www.stltoday.com/blogzone/lager-heads/ really affected
consumers and how they feel about long-cherished brands, surely
people would stop buying AB-InBev products.
I fear, though, that Joe
Six-Pack in the U.S. is not an avid reader of this blog. No
reports have hit my side of the Atlantic yet that sales of
Budweiser and Bud have declined dramatically since the brewer
was taken over by “Bulgarians” (Brazilians, Belgians – why not
Bulgarians, indeed?). There does not seem to be a direct
correlation between vitriolic electronic anti-Budweiser
diatribes and AB-InBev’s beer sales.
Guess what? This is exactly
the argument Mr Brito’s entourage is using to justify their not
doing anything about the blogosphere.
Initially, I thought Mr Brito
would become the Obama of the brewing industry, using blogs,
mass texting and online phone banks to inspire Britomania. After
all, their campaigns coincided: Obama was running for President
while Mr Brito was vying for ownership of A-B.
By the time Mr Brito took on
A-B’s board, Obama’s campaign managers had already fine-tuned
their strategies. All Mr Brito would have had to do was to learn
from the best
When I saw Mr Brito’s first
video post, I searched InBev’s site for leads as to where I
could sign up for “Brito Mobile”. Surely A-B’s employees,
distributors and suppliers would have been grateful for
round-the-clock inspirational text messages? Mr Brito texting
“InBev cares about you”, or “Yes, we can” would have gone down
Imagine how relieved A-B’s
workers would have been to read the following message from Mr
Brito only seconds after he had secured Warren Buffett’s
support: “We just made history. All of this happened because you
at A-B gave your time, talent and passion to this company. All
of this happened because of you. Brito."
Well, obviously none of these
were sent out. In the end, Mr Brito managed to clinch the deal
without webroots support.
Perhaps business and politics
are still two worlds apart. While bloggers have an undeniable
influence on American politics beyond their own online culture,
the viral (self-) marketing of business leaders Obama-style
through blogs may yet have to catch on.
One thing is sure: Whatever
the disgruntled A-Bs, the reluctantly InBeved and all the others
writing under assumed names (including Brito’s – and these are
always the funniest entries) have to rant and moan about – it
cannot be without consequences.
I am convinced that no brand,
no company, no CEO can afford that kind of negative publicity
february 09 ·