You are going to see a lot of media over the next few days about John Cleese, Canadian Club and beer fairies. It’s the latest stage in a very large campaign by the drinks maker Beam to position Canadian Club as the alternative to beer.
It says something fairly powerful about the plummeting perception of mainstream beer that an RTD can position itself as the elegant face of modern drinking instead of beer; that a whisky owned by Jim Beam that bills itself as the “‘unofficial’ Whisky of Prohibition”, “rumoured to be Al Capone’s favourite” can successfully pitch itself as the preferred choice over the traditional ‘beverage of moderation’.
As we have said previously, the nations two largest brewers have got to take a good hard look at themselves and their marketing in answering how this has happened.
The supposedly viral ad campaign featured below shows the image of beer that they suggest beer represents. (we say supposedly, because if you see it on a site or blog it is more than likely paid advertising. The laughingly named Viral Ad Network approached us to run it, we declined. Of course, now we’re running it for free but there was no other way to illustrate the story. The irony sorta kills me.)
Canadian Club’s version of a beer drinker
An ad that seeks to reduce something to such an absurd stereotype can only hope to succeed if it is playing upon something that is reconisable. Is there a nub of truth in the Canadian Club portrayal of beer?
Bearing in mind that beer advertisers will be trying to identify with their target audience in their ads, let’s see how they portray their customers…
XXXX Gold’s version of a beer drinker
VB’s version of a beer drinker
Even the iconic, spectacular and hugely funny Big Ad looks like it could have been cast from the same group who populate the beer fairy ads.
And CUB’s most recent attempts to salvage its star brand from a prolonged freefall managed to make beer drinkers seem like yobs while at the same time making fun of the people that Canadian Club is successfully targeting.
Astoundingly, when it comes to presenting the image of their company, Fosters is able to paint a much more inclusive and positive picture of beer than they are able to do about their main product. Of course, they save these images for their website where no-one will see them. You wouldn’t want to put them on a billboard, would you?
While the big two brewers wring their hands in desperation at ‘the weather’, the changing palates of a generation and the increased competition from other beverages, perhaps they might also ask themselves whether it’s possible to reach beer’s traditional drinkers without making them all look like fat, unkempt, boorish parodies. If they can, they may be able to appeal to their traditional market while not driving away the ones who don’t look and act like buffoons.
Incidentally, full credit to Fairfax’s Karl Quinn for striking the right note of cynicism over the campaign in his piece on Brisbanetimes.com.au.
Update – It’s interesting to read this article by Simon Canning, The Australian’s advertising and media writer, that the brand manager for Canadian Club is Trent Chapman, former brand manager for VB. The CC campaign shows a frightening insight into the market of beer and this confirms my suspicion that even the large brewers know that this is the image that they’re portraying of beer.
Ironically, the campaign has been masterminded by a former marketer for VB who helped perpetuate the brand’s image as a drink for those with a hard earned thirst who wear singlets and stubbies.