CAMPAIGNS: Molson Canadian finds unique way to label itself in US

PR Team: Molson USA (Golden, CO) and Wheatley & Timmons (Chicago) Campaign: Molson Canadian Twin Labels Time Frame: October 2002 - ongoing Budget: $70,000

PR Team: Molson USA (Golden, CO) and Wheatley & Timmons (Chicago) Campaign: Molson Canadian Twin Labels Time Frame: October 2002 - ongoing Budget: $70,000

For years, Canadian brewer Molson had relied on a marketing agreement with Miller Brewing to sell its products in the US. Unhappy with the results of that arrangement (Molson had dropped from the number-three import to number seven), it decided to end the association. Instead, Molson set up a joint venture with Coors, retaining marketing and management control of the new endeavor, which is headquartered in Coors' hometown of Golden, CO. Molson Canadian is the top-selling beer in Canada, but the brewer had seen other varieties, such as Molson Ice and Molson Golden, get more market attention in the US. It sought a way to dramatically increase US sales. Strategy Packaging is a big part of beer marketing. New microbrews have often captured market share with trendy bottles, labeling, and even by giving local bars distinctive tap handles. Molson had decided to use packaging innovation to help its Canadian brand stand out. It developed what it came to call "twin label" technology to give the beer distinctive packaging. Molson Canadian bottles now sport the usual label on the front, with a second label on the back containing one of 84 humorous, provocative, or flirtatious sayings. Phrases like "Can I get your number?" and "Guess where my tattoo is," were pasted on the backs of the bottles. "Every brand looks for an edge," says Bob Wheatley, CEO of Wheatley & Timmons, Molson USA's agency. The twin labels are "like a fortune cookie - you don't know what you'll get. It makes the package a partner for their core consumers," primarily men ages 21-30. The agency was brought in to gain publicity for the new labels as part of an overall effort to build Molson Canadian's market share. Tactics Wheatley first targeted major media such as The Wall Street Journal and USA Today, pitching stories about the twin labels. Launch parties for the new packaging were held in Molson's five largest US markets (Buffalo, Rochester, Detroit, Boston, and Philadelphia), with local media and local trendsetters invited. The labels were positioned as a way for bar patrons to break the ice when approaching members of the opposite sex. Beer distributors and their key account reps were also invited to the launch parties. "When you're an imported beer, the challenge is distribution," Wheatley explains. Getting distributors to carry a given import is the first challenge; revving up their enthusiasm so they put selling muscle behind it is equally as important. The agency also produced a newsletter for Molson distributors, profiling the top-10 distributors across the country. Other targets included the beer and beverage trade press, entertainment and talk shows, men's magazines, and local media in Molson's top markets. Results Molson gained coverage in the Journal and USA Today, along with mentions on the Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn, Late Night with Conan O'Brien, and Live with Regis and Kelly. Local coverage included the Philadelphia Enquirer, Buffalo News, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, Rocky Mountain News, and Detroit Free Press. Magazine coverage included Penthouse, Men's Journal, and Maxim. By year's end, Molson Canadian was the fastest-growing import - in terms of supermarket sales - among the top-25 brands. Future Wheatley is continuing to seek media coverage of Molson Canadian's unique bottles. "In 2003, there will be more emphasis on expansion markets," the agency says. New sayings will appear on twin labels, says Molson USA's VP of marketing Steve Breen. "We're in the business of making things fun," he says. "No one else has done this in beerville."

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