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One Country's Trash is Another Country's Treasure

One of America’s cheapest beers, [Pabst Blue Ribbon](www.pabst.com/) (PBR), has repositioned itself in China as a luxury beverage. Pabst Blue Ribbon 1844 was launched in late 2009 exclusively for the Chinese market. Targeting wealthy consumers, the spruced-up beer is priced at an astonishing US$40 per bottle (720ml), compared to the US$3.50 price tag in the United States. PBR brewmaster, Alan Kornhauser, told reporters that the special brew is consumed by the new Chinese rich who are willing to display their wealth by splurging. It’s mind-boggling to foreigners, but PBR does have its roots in the Chinese market. Pabst entered China in 1993 and held the title for the best-selling foreign beer in China throughout the ’90s. China acts as the perfect platform for some mass market brands to reposition themselves into the luxury market. It’s a bold and strategic move from PBR, but for me, it’s just another case of mutton dressed as lamb.
To read more about this head to [brandchannel](http://www.brandchannel.com/home/?tag=/Pabst) and [red-luxury]( http://red-luxury.com/). Photo courtesy of [brandchannel]( http://www.brandchannel.com/home/?tag=/Pabst) What do you think about PBR’s redesign? What other brands have you noticed in China that are disguising themselves as elite?

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Comments

Comments

bill_greyskull

Fantastic re-positioning. I remember the days at SF's Drunk Tank bar when we used to get a PBR and a shot of Jaeger for one dollar on Thursdays. I've noticed that (regular) PBR continues to have a pretty strong presence in a number of second and third-tier cities. The statement by Kornhauser doesn't seem to suggest that there is anything too special about the deluxe brew, though. Has anyone tried this?
tominsh's picture

tominsh

Pre-1920 "bullet in your head" style advertising... IMHO, China's actually one of the only countries in the world where the media audience, for a variety of reasons, seems to be stuck in a pre-cognitivistic limbo. 4A agencies are loving it. "Buy this cream it makes you white", "buy this overpriced beer it makes you look rich (by virtue of being overpriced)". Moreover, the fascination for foreign products and everything "exotic" (even when of questionable absolute quality, like Johnny Walker or Chivas whisky) is so evident in ad campaigns, where most of the messages are: "this thing comes from the West, it's good, buy it!". People blindly follow such messages, it seems to me. Lack of pluralism also contributes to this situation. In addition, I think that here in China it is widely understood that anything overpriced HAS to be amazingly good - another old-time trick, systematically abused by market player, that works wonders with nouvelle riches.

sir_loin

Harsh would be putting it nicely. It is a trashy beer in the US as well.
zachary_franklin's picture

zachary_franklin

my bad for having the previous post come up three times ...
zachary_franklin's picture

zachary_franklin

Harsh headline. I wouldn't consider PBR a trashy beer in the United States, particularly because of how long it's been around. And unless someone has actually tried the new Chinese PBR beverage, I think it's a little early to be balking at the company just because they upped the price. Here is a more relevant question to this whole discussion: Who (which establishments) will be selling the beer?
zachary_franklin's picture

zachary_franklin

Harsh headline. I wouldn't consider PBR a trashy beer in the United States, particularly because of how long it's been around. And unless someone has actually tried the new Chinese PBR beverage, I think it's a little early to be balking at the company just because they upped the price. Here is a more relevant question to this whole discussion: Who (which establishments) will be selling the beer?
zachary_franklin's picture

zachary_franklin

Harsh headline. I wouldn't consider PBR a trashy beer in the United States, particularly because of how long it's been around. And unless someone has actually tried the new Chinese PBR beverage, I think it's a little early to be balking at the company just because they upped the price. Here is a more relevant question to this whole discussion: Who (which establishments) will be selling the beer?

sir_loin

Trash beer indeed. Undrinkable. Speaks volumes about the availability of decent beer in Shanghai.

narsfweasels

Frankly Claire I'd balk at shelling out $3.50 for it, so paying 240 RMB is about as likely as me gluing myself to the toilet in protest over the plight of the South American Dung Beetle. "I've also noticed that Pizza Hut is another brand vying for an elite image over here." I know... my in-laws still believe they have to get "all dressed up" to go there.
qichenzhang's picture

qichenzhang

<br>Evan Osnos also blogged about it <a href="http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/evanosnos/2010/07/pardon-me-would-you-have-any-pabst-blue-ribbon.html" target="_blank"><b>here.</b></a> <br> <br>Dead hipsters are rolling over in their graves.
Claire Miles's picture

Claire Miles

So I take it you won't be shelling out RMB240 for it Narsf? I've also noticed that Pizza Hut is another brand vying for an elite image over here.

narsfweasels

Sorry, HOW much? Forty dollars? Forty *dollars?* That's what... 240 RMB for a bottle? Jesus, they saw you coming, didn't they? Well said, Claire, but "mutton dressed as lamb" is only the beginning!
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