Budweiser – which brand name is the right one?
If you have a business, one of the first things to do is to have a brand name. One that you can use to differentiate yourself from others. A name, word or phrase that will clearly identify you. Most controversy is caused by copying products and designs. But what happens if someone else has the same brand name as you? If you think that’s almost impossible, you’re wrong. Just like if you think it’s only for the little ones. Because Budweiser is one brand, two companies and, most importantly, even more beer!
Budweiser is a legendary beer. It’s where many believe even Bud Spencer borrowed his name from. In America, it is a staple beer, known by almost everyone and available almost everywhere. But in Central and Eastern Europe, when we say Budweiser, we tend to think of the Czech Republic. And when we think of the Czech Republic, we immediately think of beer.
The historical drifts of the 1900s suggest that there could even be a link between the two companies and two brands. It could be the story of an entrepreneur who emigrated from the Czech Republic, arrived and realised the American dream. But the story is more a case of chicken and egg. One brand came first, but which one, perhaps no one cares anymore. The world beer tour, however, inevitably takes a turn towards Germany. The brand name is German, borrowed from the German name České Budějovice (Budweis). And if you are looking for a name for a beer, it might be a good idea to find it in German. After all, Germans and beer are perhaps even more strongly connected. It is precisely this that drove the American owners, or more precisely, business interest. They wanted to target the large German immigrant population. Almost 150 years later, we can say that they succeeded.
Czech beer with a Czech name
The situation is a little different for the Czechs. The original brand name is Budějovický Budvar. The story could be set in the present day. The beer was good, the name was a bit complicated and the market was international. Internationalisation was the obvious choice, and the name of the city was a perfect fit, and Budweiser was born – here too. One might ask which is the real one or which is truer than the other. The Americans say they founded the company earlier, which is of course a fact. The Czechs, on the other hand, say that their beer is made locally and that the brand represents that place. We can accept both arguments as true, no doubt. But there is no single truth for the time being, they coexist side by side.
Buy a good lawyer
And if the market is big enough and the brand name is well enough known, then the law will step in. As we wrote a paragraph earlier, the US owns an older company. But the Czechs own the naming rights in many countries in Europe. There are countries where they go against each other: the Czechs as Budweiser and the Americans as Bud. This interesting situation can be seen in, say, Austria or Italy. In this story, the European Union has already taken a decision, one that is more favourable to the Czechs. True, they are excluded from using the Bud brand name. When you order beer at the bar, you don’t want to deal with trademarks, authenticity, let alone legal conflicts. I’m sure you know what it’s like with brands in America. Yes, you guess right. There, the courts allow only Americans to use the Budweiser brand name. For the Czechs, it remains Budějovický Měšťanský Pivovar. Which sounds much worse, especially, from a marketing point of view and pronounced with an American accent.
In a glass is a different story
Pouring the two drinks side by side, the difference is more striking. The American version is lighter. The Czech beer, much closer to Central European taste, is darker and more specific. But which is the real beer is almost unanswerable. In a beer bar, the Czech product would probably win. It has much more character and gives the consumer a different experience. On a sweltering summer’s day, however, the Americans’ can provide a quick refreshment and a cool respite. And the difference is perhaps most palpable here. The two Budweisers are not even close to making and selling the same product! Culturally, American and European consumers have completely different things in mind, with only one thing connecting them: the brand name.
Only the big ones
Before you think that the story of the two Budweisers is a good one, but that it can never happen in the life of a small business owner, I have to disappoint you. The human mind is a simplistic one. They can only fit a few brand names in their head and define the rest in comparison. If I say bank, I’m sure you have three brand names in mind. Wherever you live in the world, you can’t think of more than three. And you define the other players in the market in relation to them. If you don’t think so, just think of how much Auchan has struggled and struggled with the ‘birdy Tesco’ label. A little one, if it shows up and gets fans, will get envious ones. There are those who want to cash in on your individuality, talent and creativity.
What you can do is trademark your brand. Your design and your branding. It may seem like overkill now, but it’s not superfluous. Your competitor will take your customers first. That means your revenue, your profits and your potential for growth. Then dissatisfied customers (because they didn’t get your product!) will complain to you. In other words, you’re taking the blame for a lot of problems you’re innocent of. But no one cares about that. In the market, the truth is what customers believe and pass on. You can end up out of pocket many times over in legal fees and costs. Worse still, the brand you’ve built up is eroding with every transaction. The situation is very real, and I could give you many examples from my own acquaintances or clients. So you could be next.
The brand name stays with you (?)
We started with the idea that you will be memorable, they will know who you are and not confuse you with others. Yet sometimes the brand name changes. Such was the case recently with Ben’s Original (formerly Uncle Ben’s). You can do this too, you build a brand with a new personality and a new identity. Sometimes it’s a market imperative, and sometimes it’s a rational business decision. However, updating or replacing a logo or a brand name is a huge risk. If you can’t communicate it properly to your customers, you could even fail your brand. They may feel abandoned, as a familiar favourite suddenly disappears from the market. If they don’t know that they’ve “just” been converted, they’ll end up orphaned by other brands. Brand name is therefore one of the biggest assets you need to constantly guard. Even if you’ve been mistaken for someone else, and even if it’s not yet clear who it could be that builds on your success. As the example of Budweiser shows, the sooner you act, the better position you may find yourself in.