Drink and dial: Budweiser launches free phone line

Labatt allows consumers on a budget to make free long distance calls via a Facebook app created by Fibernetics.

Budweiser is going to give another meaning to ‘drinking and dialing’ with the launch of their latest online branded product – a phone line. Yesterday, Labatt Brewing Company-owned Budweiser introduced a new tab on their Facebook Page – the Bud Phone, a Voice Over IP (VOIP) service developed by Cambridge, ON.-based Fibernetics, which provides a free alternative to a residential phone line and downloads directly onto a desktop.

Bud Phone is pretty sophisticated, as beer-branded phone services go, including a ‘find me follow me,’ feature, which allows a consumer to enter alternative numbers where they can be reached if they are not near their computer. A user can also enter up to three alternative numbers at one time: a cell phone number, a friend’s phone or parents’ number. If there is no answer the attempted call is re-routed to the Bud Phone voicemail service, which can also be forwarded to a cell phone.

Other brands such as Bud Light Lime and Kokanee will also introduce similar downloadable phone application for its fans, explains Christine Hamilton, associate brand manager, Budweiser Canada. Facebook alerts combined with an e-blast promoting the service will alert 500,000 consumers to the new service, many of them directly through their inboxes, she explains. Promotions for the program, which will be conducted mainly on Facebook, were handled by Grip.

‘A lot of our young adult fans have a limited budget. So whether they’re home for the summer or they’re travelling, or maybe they’re back at school they can continue to keep in touch online, so that’s important to them,’ Hamilton says.

According to Stats Canada, less than one-quarter of all Canadian households in 2008 were using only traditional landline telephone services. That number is expected to have increased since, according to Fibernetics, specifically among Gen Y users who tend to be wireless-only consumers.

Budweiser’s drinkers may be heavy social media users and into the latest technology, but they can also be sensitive or suspicious to hyper-marketing. Cindy Fournier, digital strategist at Budweiser Canada, explains that the Bud Phone’s branding communication does not interfere with the service of the app.

‘We’re not sending messages every time you call out, there’s no messages for you to pick up your voicemail. The only brand experience is online,’ she explains.