A Mentor without Mentoring
I recently took a pit stop to the Lutz Tavern -- a corner bar, located on Woodstock Blvd. in the Southeast district in Portland, OR. Honestly, the Lutz looks like a hundred other neighborhood bars I’ve seen over my years. In fact, I didn’t even go inside. Didn’t need to. I was there only to pay homage to my old friend and mentor, Alex Wipperfurth. I may be generalizing, but don't we all have people in our lives we lose touch with, but never forget? Alex is one of those guys for me. In fact, he probably doesn’t even know I consider him a mentor. He'd laugh.
Alex was crazy – crazy about “marketing without marketing,” grassroots marketing, consumer brand ownership and revitalizing brands due to obscure cultural shifts.
Alex had been consulting with Pabst Blue Ribbon a few years prior, and included P.B.R. as a case study in his book ''Brand Hijack,” which I often still reference for "grounding." Alex talked about P.B.R. as a “long-withered brand,” which at the time was combatting false rumors it was about to go out of business. This rumor served almost as a ''rallying cry'' with P.B.R.'s scarcity and cheapness. The college kids and hipsters in the Portland area began to embrace P.B.R. as this ''underground darling.'' Places like the Lutz Tavern would cater to these "alternative people" with $1 cans of Pabst -- still today it's their top selling beer. Dive bars like the Lutz were just what P.B.R. needed to ignite their revitalization, as sales began to slowly crawl out from the less than half of one percent market share during the early 2000's.
Pretty cool to see how today Pabst is holding steady as the fourth largest beer maker in the U.S. (behind Anheuser-Busch, Miller and Coors).
A more thorough recap of the resurgence can be found here in Rob Walker’s New York Times Magazine 2003 article “The Marketing of No Marketing.”