From 1978 – 2001, the Pabst Blue Ribbon brand’s volume declined each and every year. The once mighty PBR lost 90% of its volume and eventually bottomed out at 872,000 barrels of beer.
In August of 2000, Neal was hired as a Divisional Marketing Manager. In late 2001, after a CEO and Marketing Department lead change, Neal’s responsibility transitioned to Brand Manager where he assumed the responsibility of the Pabst brand.
If there was any good news with the brand, it was that the Pacific Northwest was showing double and at times, triple digit growth. Portland, OR was leading the charge and building business with a completely different consumer – young adults…hipsters, to be exact.
From there, the mission was to build relationships with these consumers via influencers. But it had to be done without the consumers knowing they were being marketed to, because what originally attracted these consumers to the brand was that it didn’t overtly market to them.
In 2002, PBR grew 5%. This might seem modest, but not in the hyper-competitive beer industry where brands that decline for a few years are typically written off for dead.
PBR’s volume growth accelerated in 2003 and 2004, up to +15%. The brand’s resurgence became a hot media story with newspapers across the country, including a feature story in the New York Times Magazine.
By the time Neal left Pabst Brewing Company in 2006, the brand had recorded a combined annual growth of +55% and had almost doubled its volume. Today, the brand continues to grow and attract new consumers based on many of the same strategies and tactics that Neal implemented in the early part of this decade.