Case Study

Pabst Blue Ribbon


Reframe a long-neglected brand for the modern beer drinker.


PABST BLUE RIBBON BEER barely had a pulse when Fizz arrived on the scene. To wit: 27 quarters of declining sales, no wholesaler support, no image and virtually no budget to do anything about it.

This was our first big break. Since the client had nothing to lose, we were given the freedom to follow our guts and do some unconventional things.

First we did our homework and found two interesting insights about PBR:

INSIGHT #1: Authenticity vs. Yuppiedom. The 21-30 crowd were the outsider off- spring of yuppies. They rejected materialism in favor of doing what you’re passionate about, despite the lack of attention or reward.

INSIGHT #2: Quiet Confidence vs. Loud. In the age of frogs (Bud- weiser) and Swedish Bikini Teams (Old Milwaukee), our target market appreciated creativity, just minus the contrivance and hoopla.

Authenticity Rules

These insights led us to our strategy: redefine the brand as authentic to reach edgy urban hipsters. So we went out and found interesting people doing interesting things. We found Mini KISS, a band of little people who dress up as members of the band KISS. We found a guy who covers low-rider bikes in precious metals. We went to events like Bike Rodeos and the Snow Bowl in Park City, Utah (where a few snowboarders built a quasi-sled out of cardboard and painted the PBR logo on it—their idea). You get the picture.

Banners & Beer

Rather than giving these renegade groups sponsorships—which Pabst couldn’t afford—we offered them banners, beer and our physical presence at events. We gave them our authentic support. Which is the best thing we could have done, since they were rebelling against the Big Marketing Machine. And boy did it get people talking.



8:1 ROI

The Pabst Brewing Company enjoyed an 8-to-1 return on investment.


of additional cases sold over a 5-year span

No. 1

PBR skyrocketed to the #1 beer in its category and the #19 beer in the U.S.

... it's striking how many of P.B.R.'s mini-relationships were initiated by the representative of some subculture approaching Pabst.... Each little sponsorship effort—skateboard movie screenings, art galleries, independent publishers—expands the network.

Rob Walker, reporting for The New York Times
in “The Marketing of No Marketing” (June 22, 2003)

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