Anheuser-Busch’s Pioneering Promotional Products: Unveiling the Marketing Genius of the 1880s and 1890s


In the late 19th century, American companies began to recognize the value of marketing and promotion in building brand awareness and loyalty. Among these visionary enterprises, Anheuser-Busch, the renowned brewery, took significant strides in utilizing promotional products to establish a strong foothold in the market. This blog delves into the fascinating journey of Anheuser-Busch during the 1880s and 1890s, exploring the innovative promotional strategies that laid the foundation for the company’s enduring success.

  1. A Brief History of Anheuser-Busch

Before we delve into their promotional endeavors, let’s take a moment to understand the background of Anheuser-Busch. Founded in 1852 by Eberhard Anheuser and his son-in-law Adolphus Busch, the brewery rapidly evolved into a major player in the American beer industry. By the late 1800s, Anheuser-Busch was determined to enhance its market presence and distinguish itself from competitors.

  1. The Advent of Promotional Products

The 1880s marked a turning point for Anheuser-Busch, as it recognized the potential of promotional products in boosting sales and brand recognition. During this period, advancements in manufacturing allowed for the production of cost-effective and eye-catching items, making them ideal for promotional purposes. Anheuser-Busch seized this opportunity to create lasting brand impressions among consumers.

  1. The Iconic Budweiser Custer’s Last Fight Lithograph

One of the most notable promotional efforts by Anheuser-Busch during the 1880s was the distribution of the “Custer’s Last Fight” lithograph. This impressive and historically significant artwork depicted the Battle of Little Bighorn and soon became a collector’s item. The brewery widely distributed these lithographs to bars, saloons, and other public establishments, leading to a surge in demand for Budweiser beer.

  1. Brewery Branded Items and Merchandise

In addition to the famous lithographs, Anheuser-Busch introduced a wide range of branded merchandise during the 1890s. These items included beer mugs, glassware, coasters, trays, and more. By producing such products, the brewery not only encouraged customer loyalty but also inadvertently turned their customers into walking advertisements whenever they used or displayed these items.

  1. Collaborative Marketing Efforts

Recognizing the importance of collaboration, Anheuser-Busch engaged in partnerships with other businesses to boost their promotional efforts. They collaborated with bars, hotels, and restaurants to offer branded promotional items to their patrons. These collaborative efforts further extended the reach of Anheuser-Busch’s brand messaging, solidifying its presence in various social circles.

  1. Brewing the “Winning” Strategy: Contests and Giveaways

Anheuser-Busch also implemented various contests and giveaways during this period to increase consumer engagement and enthusiasm. One such instance was the “Election Day” campaign in 1896, where consumers who purchased Budweiser had the chance to win exclusive prizes. This creative approach not only drove sales but also fostered a sense of excitement and loyalty among consumers.

  1. Expansion and Nationwide Recognition

As Anheuser-Busch’s promotional efforts continued to yield positive results, the brewery expanded its operations and gained nationwide recognition. The company’s commitment to quality products and innovative marketing tactics solidified its position as a leading brewing company in the United States.

Lifetime of success

The 1880s and 1890s were transformative years for Anheuser-Busch, as they harnessed the power of promotional products to carve a niche in the competitive beer industry. By distributing iconic lithographs, producing branded merchandise, and engaging in collaborative marketing endeavors, the brewery successfully established its brand identity and fostered a loyal customer base.

Today, Anheuser-Busch’s pioneering promotional strategies remain an inspiring example of how creative marketing and promotional efforts can shape the destiny of a brand. As we raise our glasses to enjoy a Budweiser, we pay homage to the legacy of the 1880s and 1890s, where the seeds of promotional genius were sown, ultimately flourishing into one of the most iconic beer brands in the world.