Pabst Blue Ribbon has been sold in the United States since the late 1800s, but around the turn of the 21st century, something changed. People actually started drinking PBR. Like, cool people. And they were drinking a lot of PBR.
What many big brands fail to realize is that you simply can’t buy “cool.” And what’s cool in Kansas City may not be what’s cool in Orlando or Seattle. So when Steve “Stix” Nilsen, Pabst’s former lifestyle marketing manager, went to bars, concert venues, skate shops, and other places where the cool kids hang out, he defied the cookie-cutter route of brand promotion via slogans, paid influencer posts, and sh*tty, 50/50 blend T-shirts. Instead, he toured the country, wielding cases of PBR wherever he roamed, and simply dropped them off at local hangouts, gave fist bumps to whoever was there, and left. This semi hands-off approach allowed all the cool kids to build their own narrative and culture around the beer, and thus, they proceeded to do the marketing themselves. It was inexpensive, organic and — most importantly — it worked.
Joining “Taplines” today is Stix Nilsen. These days, he’s the vice president of “cult indoctrination” at Liquid Death, but from 2009 to 2018, he was part of the lifestyle marketing team at Pabst tasked with boosting Blue Ribbon’s bonafides in the scene — every scene — without going bust. It’s PBR, it’s Stix Nilsen, it’s the Blue Ribbon hipster halo, and it’s right here on VinePair’s “Taplines.”