Nearly a decade after Molson Coors Brewing Co. retired its most famous slogan, "I. Am. Canadian" is making a comeback.
Just in time for Canada Day, Canadians will be able to declare their national pride – via, what else, a beer company tagline – on their golf balls, barbecue aprons, smartphone covers, and on the back of their favourite dog.
On Monday, the brewer launched an online store with branded merchandise available, much of it reviving the "I. Am. Canadian" line that was phased out of its marketing strategy in 2004 after a 10-year run.
"It's never really left the public consciousness. It is part of our cultural identity, and part of this brand's identity," said Molson's vice-president of marketing, Dave Bigioni. "When we looked at it, we said it's such a latent asset for us."
Its rebirth is another step in a year that has seen Molson bringing nationalist pride back into its advertising game plan. In February, the company launched an ad boasting about how well-loved the hard-partying Canadian is around the world. "The Canadians" shot up to 1-million views just a few days after being posted on YouTube, and a shorter version is still running on television.
Over the weekend, a kind of sequel to that commercial was released online. The company's ad agency, Rethink, built two beer fridges that could only be opened by scanning a Canadian passport, and in May, it left them in random spots in France, Belgium and the U.K. – where people quickly took up the search for a tourist who could bequeath the frosty brews to the crowd. A 30-second version will begin airing on TV, starting Monday evening during Game 6 of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The ad caps off with the line, "Here's to being proud of where you're from," and the slogan appears, updated as a Twitter hashtag – #IamCanadian.
The fridge campaign will go further than the TV ads that will air throughout the summer, as well. The fridges will appear at Canada Day celebrations in Ottawa and Trafalgar Square in London, and at events throughout the summer. The brand is exploring bringing the fridges to Sochi for the Olympics, as well.
In addition to the store and the commercial, the slogan is also revived on $1-million worth of merchandise being given away, including printed on T-shirts currently included in 24-packs of beer; and on 32-ounce boot-shaped glasses in promotions at bars.
It does not mean that the old slogan will replace the current one, "Made from Canada." But the company had fielded customer inquiries over the years about buying products such as glasses and T-shirts with the old slogan, and decided it would be useful for advertising around the holiday. (The online store will live on after July 1, although late-to-the-game nationalists will have to pay shipping costs for orders at that point.)
"Molson Canadian is all about pride," said Aaron Starkman, creative director at Rethink in Vancouver. "After the success of 'The Canadians,' we took a look at things and it just felt so right, especially approaching Canada Day."
The strategy has contributed to Molson's bottom line before: After the famous Joe Canada "rant" commercial begain airing in 2000, the company's market share rose 2.5 per cent in English Canada in a category where gaining even a small amount of ground is incredibly difficult. Competitor Labatt Blue's market share fell nearly 3 per cent at the time.
"At this time, we felt it was the right emotion," Mr. Bigioni said. "We see it as this window, where we want to reconnect Canadians with this idea."
The beer fridge: How they did it
When Rethink decided to build the passport-scanning beer fridge for Molson, they called a London-based effects company called Artem to help with the nuts and bolts.
Artem built a slot for the fridge, with a spring-loaded device inside to stabilize the passport when entered. The passport then pushed up against a lightweight switch in the back to trigger a modified web cam. That camera takes a snapshot of the passport's cover, and the fridge was coded to open only when it captured an image of a Canadian passport.
Watch a video of the making of the fridge here.
Editor's note: An earlier online version of this story incorrectly stated that Molson's online store is selling more than $1-million in merchandise available. The value applies to promotional giveaways that are part of its new campaign, not the value of its store products. This online version has been corrected.