AB InBev : Watering down preparations

Allegations against a global brand expose online management flaws.

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The feature

AB InBev, Belgium-based multinational brewer, was unprepared to deliver a quick strong response to brand-damaging allegations. AB InBev is the parent company of Anheuser Busch, maker of leading US beer Budweiser which on Wednesday (27 February) was accused in a lawsuit brought by former employees of secretly watering down the product (the brewer denies any wrongdoing). AB InBev has an official corporate news Twitter feed that is easily found in search engines but is not referenced in the Media section or other parts of the corporate website. As of today (28 February) the most recent posting to the news Twitter feed was dated February 20. The Media section’s Global Press Releases feature has no entries related to the ‘watered beer’ allegations. The brand site (anheuser-busch.com) has a link on its home page to a brief official statement and has a Twitter feed through which it has been responding to tweet replies including from news organisations (though the site’s media section has only an RSS subscription service and no Twitter feeds).

The takeaway

AB InBev’s Budweiser is a global brand that has been hit with a well-publicised accusation that threatens its reputation with beer drinkers especially, but not exclusively. Its lack of response suggests a disconnected management structure (it’s a local operation’s problem) but also a lack of appreciation in its reputation and news management of the importance of coordinating all its online channels. That the company has a news Twitter feed but does not promote it to journalists (and others) on its website is astonishing enough of itself. It really should be pushing these important ‘influencers’ to sign up, so that if/when a crisis breaks they have a ready audience to receive and spread their point of view – even if the response strategy is limited initially to an official statement. The absence of any postings on the feed relating to the annual results announcement on 27 February would confirm that AB InBev really doesn’t ‘get’ how to strengthen its corporate communications with a multi-channel formula.

First published 28 February, 2013
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