People tend to throw the word iconic around pretty easily these days. Athletes are iconic because they’ve had a few stellar years in a row on the field. Cars are iconic because they look good or have a name plate that goes back more than a decade or two. Songs are iconic because folks who are nearing retirement remember singing them as teenagers. Actors are iconic because they have wrinkles around their eyes and have an acting resume that extends past page two.
In the strictest sense, all of those truly are icons…something that represents something else. But, when most people use the word iconic, they actually intend a more focused meaning…something that creates a cultural or emotional connection in the minds of many people. By that definition, while all actors may be icons of acting, only a few are truly iconic.
Last week, a company with an American heritage announced that they were ending an iconic advertising campaign. Budweiser announced that there would be no new Clydesdale horse commercials. Now that seems like a silly thing for a blog post but, if you think about it, what advertising campaign is more iconic than those commercials of behemoth size horses pulling a beer wagon full of Americana into our lives.
Over the years those horses have made us laugh, reminded us that true friends never leave your side, showed us that success truly does come from hard work, made us remember that teaching youngsters is an older generation’s greatest gift and pointed out that striving for a goal higher than our reach is the only way to know what our personal best is.
Below are a few of my favorite Budweiser Clydesdale commercials. There are many more, but I couldn’t find a lot of the older ones on the Internet. Maybe someday Budweiser will make a DVD of them all. I’d be first in line to buy it.
The last clip is probably my favorite. It only aired one time and I remember watching it in a room full of sports fans. Towards the end, the room went silent and, when it was over, not one person had dry eyes. That, my readers, is the definition of iconic.
Other than an occasional beer at a summer get together, I seldom drink. But, while I’m not part of their target audience, I do understand Budweiser’s decision. They’re losing market share to hipper craft beers and beers like Coors that typically appeal to a younger market. From a corporate standpoint, changing their advertising strategy was needed. But, to me, it’s the end of an era and still sad. Sometimes I think I’m a bit like a those Clydesdale horses – an anachronistic icon from a time gone by who no longer fits well with today’s demographic.
I wish that I was wealthy and had large horse barn on a farm with miles of dirt roads. If I did, I’d see if I could buy a team of older Clydesdale horses that still had the energy and desire to occasionally pull a big red beer wagon around. We could grow old together and reminisce about days gone by, funny stories that need remembered and friends that never let you down. That would be an enjoyable way to ride into retirement. I think I’d look good sitting on top of a big red wagon, don’t you?