Press releases. I get sent an increasing number of them.
Some of them are genuinely useful. Many others are completely irrelevant (when have I ever done anything that suggests a professional interest in female sanitary products?) Often they confuse what a press release should do - supply a writer with news, information, quotes and angles for potential stories - with a really crappy attempt at writing the story itself that would insult the intelligence and credulity of a three year-old.
I was thinking of sharing the most outstanding examples with you instead of simply binning them - perhaps introducing a 'press release of the week' feature - and then, I received one this morning that changes everything, redefining the entire genre.
The headline on the email from Zoo Communications crashed through my hangover and pulled me to attention - this was a prize scoop and no mistake: “Anheuser-Busch InBev UK launches Budweiser Brew No. ‘66’ – an innovation set to revolutionise the beer category”.
Wow! They weren’t mincing their words! Words like:
Innovation: defined by Dictionary.com as “something new or different”.
Revolutionise: “to effect a radical change”
Bud 66 eh? What could it be, this new or different thing that’s going to bring about radical change in the beer, um, “category”?
Because beer is going through a very exciting time at the moment, with plenty of innovation going on: we've got style mash-ups like 'Belgian IPAs', explorations in wood ageing beers, ingredients like strawberries or spices being added to beer, an endless search for new hop flavours from around the world, and regular smashings of the 'world's strongest beer' record. What could AB-Inbev possibly be up to that could top that?
With shaking hands I clicked open the press release. Boy, Zoo Communications are good. Usually a press release gives you what you need to know, if not in the headline, then in the first line of copy. Not this one. More like a Steven King novel than a press release, it just continued to build the suspense.
AB-Inbev president Stuart Macfarlane declared Bud 66 “our most important business action in 2010”.
This is the world's biggest brewer we're talking about. Their 'most important business action'?This really was serious.
But why were they embarking on such a radical, revolutionary departure? Why? Because according to Stuart, you, the drinker, demand it: “Consumers, and in particular consumers in their early twenties are looking for something new and different – and it’s up to us to continue providing compelling product offers that reflect their needs and tastes.”
Not just “new or different” but "new AND different"? Oh I’m almost pissing myself with excitement here, PLEASE Stuart, tell us what it is!
Halfway down the page, he finally gives in: Bud 66 is “A lightly carbonated lager brewed with a touch of sweetness for a smooth, easy taste at 4% abv.”
I’m sorry? A what!?
“A lightly carbonated lager brewed with a touch of sweetness for a smooth, easy taste at 4% abv.”
Hang on a minute, that sounds a little bit familiar. Why might that be? Ah, the press release goes on to tell us: “Over the past few years, AB InBev UK has catered to the premiumisation trend with the launch of Beck’s Vier and Stella Artois 4%.”
Oh. Right. So a 4% lager still counts as ‘innovation’ if you’ve done it twice before in recent years then?
In fact hang on, it’s not that dissimilar to Bud Silver, the 4.1% beer launched by Anheuser Busch in 2006 which was discontinued a couple of years later.
So, apart from a few caveats:
a) it’s just a 4% bottled lager, which isn’t new to the beer market by any conceivable logical definition
b) it’s not new to A-B Inbev
c) it’s not even new to the Budweiser brand
d) it’s going to taste stale because it’ll be lightstruck, thanks to being in a clear bottle (unlike other Bud beers, to be fair)
e) no one wanted it last time something very, very similar was launched,
this truly is an innovation that’s going to revolutionise the beer market!
Well done, A-B Inbev! Well done, Zoo Communications!
Let’s have more where this came from!
"Hello, I'm Stuart Macfarlane, and this is a bottle of 4% lager. I swear to you I have never before - in my entire life - seen anything remotely like this. And neither have you."