Molson introduced the country to Joe Canada; now it wants you to meet "The Canadians."
Molson Coors Brewing Co.'s newest commercial is just the latest in a long-standing trend of marketing brew by tapping our latent sense of national pride. And there are some indications it could be a new hit for the brand: fewer than three days after being posted on YouTube, it had been viewed more than 940,000 times.
The commercial, which hits TV airwaves this Monday, features people in Germany, South Africa, Australia, and Japan telling wild stories about the travellers they've met: partiers who dance on tables, leave it all on the stage at karaoke, and are "funnier than you, Klaus." Yes, even Klaus.
The ad caps off with the storytellers saying the travelling jesters are Canadian.
For Molson, it's a chance to associate its brand with a sentiment that has paid off before: Canadian pride.
The brewer introduced its "I am Canadian" tag line in 1994. By 1999, it had lost some ground in the ever-present rivalry with Labatt Blue. The conventional wisdom was that Canadians viewed patriotism as an ugly trait, but research showed that was no longer the case for the younger generation.
The Joe Canada "rant ad" made its debut during the Oscar broadcast in 2000, and was a success. In the year that followed, Molson Canadian's market share in English Canada rose 2.5 per cent while rival Labatt's Blue fell almost 3 per cent. It also increased the number of drinkers between the legal age and 24 who named it as their regular brand; a key segment for future growth.
This new campaign is an extension of Molson's new brand positioning, "Made from Canada," which it began using during the Vancouver Olympics in 2010. It is consistent with the Joe Canada message, the company says, but with a shift: now working with Vancouver-based agency Rethink (which did not make the Joe Canada ad), Molson is playing not on pride in ourselves, but pride in the positive image Canadians often enjoy overseas.
"[The rant] is a spot we're really proud of and it's part of Canadian culture at this point," said Dave Bigioni, senior director of marketing for the Molson Canadian brand. "The notion is, we're proud people but we're also humble people. Part of the insight of this is how other people view us and how we're perceived, as opposed to us talking about ourselves."
To build on the popularity of the ad online, after it launches on television Molson will be running a contest asking people to share through Facebook and Instagram their own stories of a time when they left an impact in another land. Winners will receive a trip to Dublin. It is part of a major push for brands to become part of the conversation on social media.
Aaron Starkman, partner and creative director at Rethink in Toronto, says the ad was inspired by his own travel experience: At the advertising festival in Cannes every year, as soon as he introduced himself, many people would tell him Canadians are crazy. "We have a reputation. … We're seen as legendary partiers. We can give 'er," he said.
In addition to other programs, the ads will run during National Hockey League game broadcasts; a competitive spot since rival Labatt, having lost its NHL sponsorship to Molson, has been fighting to horn in on the brand's association with hockey, a key pillar of Canadian identity for many.
During the Super Bowl on Sunday, Labatt kicked off a campaign for its new red goal lights, which for $149 will monitor hockey games through an Internet connection and light up when your favourite team scores.
But the strategy of advertising national pride does not work for all brands, Mr. Starkman believes. "We have licence to do something like this," he said. "We're lucky in that our name is Canadian, and we can do this. People recognize the brand as being part of this country, like Tim Hortons and hockey."