Apr 11 2014, 1:53pm CDT | by Forbes
According to the recent Coors Light commercials, Coors Light is “The world’s most refreshing beer.” This claim is proven through various Coors Light advertising executions that attempt to own “cold. Presumably because “cold” will link back to “frost filtered” (their process) which will link to “refreshing” which will link back to the Coors Light brand. I don’t buy it, and I’ll tell you why. But I also asked some of my esteemed friends in the business and got their opinions, too.
You could say it’s a polarizing topic.
But first, here’s one of the recent Coors Light spots, so we’re all on the same page:
There are many more versions of this spot, where the glaciers are like apple trees spawning little Coors Lights all over the place.
Now, let me begin with my own opinion of this campaign, realizing I am a purist when it comes to strategy. I detest advertising, no matter how creative, that isn’t based on a sound, logical truth. And that is where I think the Coors Light campaign falls down.
It’s all the same temperature at retail.
Let’s start at the point of purchase. You can tell me until your blue in the face (cold?) that your beer is all about cold, but when I see it on the floor of the local packy at room temperature, the entire branded icicle-house becomes nothing but a puddle beneath my feet. Even the fridge at retail, which holds all the beers, isn’t especially cold in the Coors Light section. I don’t buy it.
Cold is 100% up to the drinker, not Coors Light.
Unless Coors Light plans to attend and monitor the beverage temperatures at my next cookout, the coldness of the beer is entirely up to me. Might have them on ice, might be in the fridge, might be in a cooler, might be sitting out on the table. But my point is, Coors Light is selling me “cold beer” when they have no control over that aspect of my drinking experience. None. I don’t buy it.
Is Coors Light really covering up a product negative?
Ever heard the story of Jagermeister? Retail expert, Chris Harper, pointed me to the story of Sidney Frank Importing, the original licensee of the Jagermeister brand in the States. Seems the early days of selling the product at room temperature were ok, but not great – 55,000 cases annually. People described it as a combination of black liquorish, cough syrup, and root beer – not a good combo. Until one creative bartender on Bourbon Street starting pouring it as frozen shots. Sales went through the roof – 430,000 cases annually after about ten years. All because the temperature of the liquid diminished the harshness of the taste.
Could it be that Coors Light also wants to limit the diminish the effects of its product’s sub-zero taste by closely associating the product with cold? Doesn’t really matter if that was their intention or not. Their obsession with cold made me, personally, wonder if they even believed in their product’s taste.
But these views are just mine. I presented my feelings to other experts in the business to see if I was alone.
The Experts: I seem to be somewhat alone.
Here were the reactions from a few creative directors, strategists, and starting with an ex-Miller client.
Bruce Winterton, former Miller marketing executive, put it this way:/>/>
MGD became a Top 5 brand in the 80′s using cold as its primary positioning, supported by the product benefit of cold-filtered and hot-to-snow TV ads. It was very effective. In the 90′s we abandoned that space to battle microbrews head-on, to only moderate success. Looking back I’d say it was a mistake. MGD would kill for Coors Light’s positioning today. After all, what’s better than a cold beer on a hot day?
Ted Royer, Chief Creative Officer, Droga5, agrees and thinks anything can be ownable, but there’s a catch with Coors:
I think a brand can own anything it wants to as long as it’s done with some believability. It depends on how well it’s done. Lexus owned perfection. IBM owns smart, Ford owns tough etc. of course Coors can own “cold.” Dos Equis owns “interesting.” They didn’t before, but they seized ownership with a great campaign. It’s just the way Coors goes about it is clunky. It shows that they are making something up rather that really talking about a brand attribute or even a relatable brand attitude. And I think they think the audience is pretty dumb.
Ernie Schenck, Creative Director, Freelance, seems to agree with Ted:
Beer is one of those products where it’s just really hard to find anything substantive to say. What, taste? Not a rats ass of difference? Fewer calories? Been there, done that. What beer brand do you know that has an advertising concept that flows organically from the beer itself. I can’t think of any that are truly credible and distinguishing. The only thing that makes them memorable is the advertising itself. Lot of brands like that. What does Geico own? A lizard? A pig? Cold seems as good as anything.
Kat Gordon, Creative Director and Founder of The 3% Conference, thinks cold is right on:
Absolutely a beer brand should aim to own cold. There’s a reason it’s called having “a cold one.” Coors has done some interesting things with their temperature-detecting label, giving the consumer a sense of control over a product attribute. Whether it delivers is debatable, but being the only brand to put a flag in the sand around an important feature is always a smart, first-mover advantage.
Jed Alger, Creative Director and Partner at agency, Must Be Something, put his opinion in the context of the role beer plays in our lives:
If I may be so bold, sir, your first misstep is thinking Coors Light is a beer. It is not. It is a lifestyle lubricant carefully callibrated to achieve a known effect over a certain period of time. I think that advertising for that sort of beverage has reached a place where there are no claims, there is no logic and they simply entertain and remind and give you something to joke about at the bar. That is the Mount Olympus of advertising. Anything is possible. Nothing is real. I kinda love those (Coors Light) commercials by the way. I always think about the moment before the commercial when the order for two Coors Lights comes in and these two guys look at each other and go, “Ah, no, are you kidding me?” Then they go risk life and limb to bring a cold can of water to some jackass who’s probably gonna spill it down his front. It’s life, in a nutshell.
Liz Gumbinner, Ex-creative Director at Deutsch, Freelancer, and Web Publisher, brings some logic to the campaign:
My impression is that Coors is trying to claim ownership of the manufacturing process: Frost-brewed. Whether or not that has meaning to a consumer, I have no idea, but they are laddering it up to a user benefit of “the world’s most refreshing beer” which seems like a logical strategic path.
They’re obviously trying to selling the idea of purity, virginal waters and mountains and all of that. In fact Corona has been selling the idea of relaxing and kicking back rather than taste. Quite successfully I presume. Cold is just the outward expression of that.
But it doesn’t end there. Mike Howard, Creative Director, and a man who actually used to work on the Coors Light account, said this:
With “Cold” Coors Light has succeeded in translating that easy-drinking sessionability (with almost no flavor profile, whatsoever) into something the beer-drinking public respond to in an almost reptilian way. They can’t exactly say “Poundable” and they don’t want to say “Tasteless.” So they say, “Cold.” And they’ve struck a chord. Say what you will, but they win big with cold.
But I am not entirely alone, just mostly so.
John Elder, President of Heat Advertising, an agency who knows a thing or two about marketing to Millennials, questions Coors attempt to link to the beer making process at all:
I believe they are trying to own “cold brewed” rather than just cold, but I agree that it’s a small distinction. The strategy of taking a small product difference and exploiting it isn’t a new one, and that’s the problem. It presupposes that consumers know–or care–how their product is made. It’s so internally focused as a strategy, it’s painful to watch. If I was Coors’ agency I’d take a look at the culture of beer – the heroes, the rituals, the language, the holidays, the icons–of beer drinkers and go for that. Otherwise, they are doomed to remain exactly where they’ve always been – an also-ran in a commoditized category.
Roger Baldacci, Creative Director, Freelancer, also took my way of thinking:
This smacks of coming directly out of focus groups. “Well, turns out beer drinkers like cold beer.” “Hey wait a minute, Bob, what did you just say!? That’s it! We’ll own cold!”
I understand the loose connection with cold and the Rockies, but for a beer brand to own a temperature shows a lack of any real consumer insight. They are just selling the category because any consumer, even heavy beer drinkers, are smart enough to know that Coors are kept in the same refrigerators as Bud and Miller.
So where do you stand on cold?
Is it a good strategy or are they on thin ice? Judging from the responses above, most disagree with my position that “cold” is not a wise strategy for a beer, but some agree. How about you?
I warmly invite you to post your thoughts below.
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