Conventional wisdom around craft beer is that it’s a simple story; tell beer lovers about the hops, the water, the malt & yeast and they’ll understand you’re all about quality and buy your beer. This might have been true five or ten years ago but it’s a much harder sell now. There are currently more that 100 crafter brewers in Ontario with many more on the way. What’s a brand to do? That was the daunting challenge facing Cameron’s Brewing when it decided to do a major rebrand. The company was one of Ontario’s first craft breweries – I remember drinking their dark ale back in the late 90’s! But the industry had changed so much over nearly two decades that the brand was literally fading away. If you want an idea of the challenge they faced have a look at this short video I shot at my local LCBO store.
Bill Coleman, President of Cameron’s knew he had a problem. When he arrived at Cameron’s in 2010 the he recognized the brand was lagging. The packaging, he says, was very traditional, very dated. “The cues were all there. Customers were telling us they couldn’t seem to find it on the shelf. It was there but they couldn’t see it.” The company tried to do some unique one-off beers with fun logos and packaging. It did a minor brand make over. But as a former marketing guy with Molson, he understood something more radical was necessary. Bill looked at Muskoka and Nickel Brook, competitors in the Ontario craft beer business who had pulled off significant rebrands and watched their sales soar. Cameron’s loyal customers, he says, “were being magnetized to other brands.”
There were some very specific goals for Cameron’s and Bill started looking for an ad agency that understood craft beer in its DNA. First off he wanted the beer to be accessible, to be comfortable in their core drinkers’ hands. He wanted the brand to have visual appeal for female drinkers who are a significant slice of the craft beer market. He wanted the beer to visually “pop” off the shelf. Finally, he needed the beer to look good in grocery stores – an emerging market for the craft beer industry. All together this was a significant challenge for Cactus – the agency they finally selected. (There will be more from Cactus and the process of the rebrand in my next post).
As a longtime strategic marketer, Bill Coleman also understood the importance of a narrative for a brand. The three core products (Captain’s Log Lager, Ambear Ale, Cosmic Cream Ale) needed stories to go with them, something that made you smile. The name changes were a start – but Bill wanted what he calls “layers and discovery” to the brand and the packaging. It’s almost marketing gospel that the goal of any brand is to build an emotional relationship with its customers. You can do part of that with branding and packaging, part of that with story telling and narrative building – and as Bill says “the beer has to taste great too. ”
The process of designing the art , the colour palate, figuring out what works on the challenging “real estate” of a beer can is something I’ll cover in the next blog post. For now, have a look at the Cameron’s redesign and let me know in the comments or on Twitter @FermentedPooch what you think of the changes.