The Iconic Pabst Blue Ribbon and Smart Brand Extensions

Up until a few years ago, Pabst Blue Ribbon was a brand on life support. Having been massively popular in the 1970’s, their flagship beer waned in consumption for decades. So much so that they closed their main brewery in Milwaukee in 2001 and fell below a million barrels yearly…a full 90% under what was consumed in 1975(Hiscott, 2014).

You can thank the Hipsters

Then something happened, PBR all of a sudden was popular among younger consumers. It was the beer of choice at bars, concert venues, and backyard cookouts. So, what happened? Well, according to Warren and Campbell; “radiating a sense of autonomy is what really counts.

So if you want your brands to seem hip, they should deviate (but not too much) from social norms considered unnecessary, repressive or illegitimate(2014)”. Essentially, Pabst Blue Ribbon strayed from the mainstream just enough to attract a new generation of beer drinking consumers. Going further, through embracing the arts and one off events(bicycle rodeo anyone?), PBR became the beer of choice for 20 somethings.

A low calorie, healthier alternative

One fight all brands must ensure is the one to stay relevant. When Pabst Brewing set out to tackle this challenge, they took a close look at their core customer base and what their wants and needs are. One thing they surely found that with the original PBR being 153 calories and just under 5% alcohol, the active, health conscious young consumer would surely want a beer that’s a little lighter on the calories and perhaps easier drinking with respect to alcohol so that it could be enjoyed during a long music festival, weekend hike, or entire night out with friends and a Jenga tournament.

Pabst Blue Ribbon Easy

The answer to the more active, health conscious beer consumer was a lower calorie and alcohol beer. With that in mind, enter Pabst Blue Ribbon Easy. With a similar packaging design involving a simple color switch and the word “Easy”, the new product makes it clear that it’s from the makers of the original Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, just lighter and easier on the buzz. What’s more, with the name “easy” as opposed to “light” Pabst shows that the beer is not just an attempt at cutting calories and taste, but a whole new beer designed for those long, fun, weekends.

An “Easy” Success?

Personally, I’m a fan of Pabst Blue Ribbon(I often joke that I’m a Hipster), and think that Easy may just have a shot at being a success. I personally have tried it and it’s a beer that I’d be more likely to take along on a weekend excursion. It’s light and doesn’t buzz like the original so with that it’s more enjoyable and doesn’t make me want a nap after a few. Having said that, I’m sure that there are plenty of others who would see the value in a beer like this and jump on board. Granted, I doubt it will be as much of a success as the original, but at least it gives the consumer a choice.


Hiscott, R. (2017, December 07). The Real Reason Hipsters Love PBR. Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/29/pbr-coolness-study_n_5399109.html

Nutritional Information, Diet Info and Calories in PBR Beer from Pabst blue ribbon. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.fitbit.com/foods/PBR Beer/400270

Warren, C., & Campbell, M. C. (2014, 08). What Makes Things Cool? How Autonomy Influences Perceived Coolness. Journal of Consumer Research, 41(2), 543-563. doi:10.1086/676680


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