June 16, 2024

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The Beer-Drinking Urban Canadian

by Maggie Van Ostrand

The Beer-Drinking Urban Canadian
by Maggie Van Ostrand

When you reach the point where you think you've seen everything, check this out -- A recent scientific analysis revealed the presence of female hormones in beer -- hops contain phytoestrogens.

To prove this, a friend emailed me the following, which has been circulating on the net:

Drinking beer turns men into women. To test the theory, 50 men were fed six pints of beer each within a one hour period. It was then observed that 100% of the men:

• Talked excessively without making sense
• Became overly emotional
• Couldn't drive
• Failed to think rationally
• Argued over nothing
• Had to sit down while urinating
• Refused to apologize when obviously wrong.

Whether this theory proves true or not, in the world of hops and suds, Canadian consumption is greater than ever. One of the reasons for this is Rob Morrell, Molson Canada's new brand manager.

And he's only 28 years old. There's something else -- he looks like Tom Cruise. Even better, he doesn't jump up and down on Oprah's couch shrieking, "I LOVE BEER!" He's too smart for that.

Morrell's leadership on the latest marketing program for Heineken Canada, whose beer is the top-selling European import, is garnering praise from happy stockholders.

Dubbed "Meet You There," the campaign encompassed a number of imaginative components designed to woo young urbanites, primarily males, according to Strategy Magazine. It began rolling out in June at Toronto's Banzai Sushi restaurant with a launch party for H2 - Heineken's sleek new aluminum bottle.

Morrell says H2's key differentiator is unabashed exclusivity. It will be available in Canada for only a limited time beginning in August. Sales will be strictly on-premise at what he terms "up-style clubs, lounges, bars and restaurants."

Morrell gives the phrase "upwardly mobile" new dimensions. Aside from being only 28, he's already the brand manager for Amstel Light, Murphy's Irish Stout and Murphy's Irish Amber, in addition to H2. And he's only been at Molson Canada for 18 months. The New Brunswick native previously spent four years in marketing at Moosehead Breweries' HQ in Saint John, N.B.

Morrell is handling his brand responsibilities exceptionally well, his boss, David Baskin, Molson's director of partner brands, told Strategy. "Everything that flows into that brand comes through Rob as the brand champion. He brings a high and infectious level of passion that gets the whole team excited. He has an easygoing manner that draws people toward him, but he also commands respect."

"Knowing where the cool and interesting spots are helps me connect to young, urban, male opinion leaders, who are really key for us right now," explains Morrell, adding that the "Meet You There" campaign is "aimed as much at a mind-set as an actual demographic. So we're targeting people who share Heineken's belief that life rewards you when you go beyond your everyday life to experience new things. And we're communicating that in a variety of non-traditional ways."

Strategy said that, instead of the typical postcard party invitations for the June 16 launch, key media, customers, and representatives from the fashion and music industries received a CD containing samples of the creative plus the campaign song "Cobrastyle" from Swedish group The Teddybears featuring Mad Cobra.

And for several days preceding the launch, H2, with help from Toronto-based youth-focused marketing firm Youthography (http://www.youthography.com), invaded the stomping grounds of its target market with storefront displays at Queen Street West hot spots Boomer, C-Squared, Black Market Records, Del-Phic and Heel Boy. This, like the CD, was Morrell's idea. Incidentally, Youthography has employees as young as 16, who apparently concluded that nothing goes together better than beer and sex.

At the party, the Have-An-Adventure theme was reinforced big time. Surrounded by posters expressing one of the campaign's key tag lines, "Flirt in another language," guests were encouraged to do just that with the help of models. Clad in Heineken's signature green, they mingled to supply translations of the phrase in various languages.

While a funky new music style called "Mash" was mixed by popular DJs Andrew Allsgood and Rene from Black Market, guests sampled exotic foods plus the contents of the new aluminum bottle, which was created for Heineken by French designer Ora Ito.

The climax of the event was "Greenspace," a 60-second TV spot - by Wieden + Kennedy Amsterdam and adapted by Toronto-based Ryan Partnership - that hit movie theatres on June 27 and will reach TV screens in August. The bash was such a success that a similar party is being planned for Montreal, and other major Canadian cities will soon follow.

Paul Tedesco, VP of Ryan Partnership, credits Morrell with coming up with a "key insight" for the new campaign. "He recognized that this is an international brand [set to break] in cosmopolitan Canadian cities like Toronto and Montreal [and elsewhere later on], so it needed international resonance."

Hence billboards and posters - with headlines such as "Introduce yourself" and "Smile and see what happens" - will include translated versions set in corresponding ethnic neighbourhoods.

Beer analyst Michael Palmer, VP of Toronto's Veritas Investment Research, thinks the campaign has the earmarks of a slam dunk in refreshing the Heineken brand. "Urban males like to be seen drinking expensive beer in expensive-looking containers because they obviously think that's going to impress urban females."

While Morrell doesn't actually articulate that no-brainer notion, it's undoubtedly embedded somewhere in what he calls his "litmus test" for effective campaigns: "Could we place another brand of beer into a given initiative? If the answer is no because it's just so Heineken then it's obviously right for our brand."

Morrell's answers to Strategy's five questions are:

Favourite book: Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom - that book made me cry on a plane!

Marketer you admire most: Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin - he has been able to build a brand and businesses that have successfully challenged the status quo in all kinds of markets.

Most useful business book: The Art of War by Sun Tsu - It helped teach me that many great strategies and truths are timeless, whether it be in business, relationships or life.

First job: Retail sales clerk at a department store - I learned how to listen to customers and that I didn't want to work in retail.

Last ad that inspired you to make a purchase: Crest White Strips - have you seen how white those things can make your teeth!?

Toothpaste may well make Morrell's teeth white, but his ad campaigns make my knuckles white -- from gripping the chair and waiting for a call from a Heineken-drinking urban male.

Let's see if we get this right: Drink Heineken's, smile a lot in every language, introduce yourself to strangers and, above all, stay young. Works for me.


Source: Strategy Magazine, July 2005 -- Used with permission.

©2013 Maggie Van Ostrand, all rights reserved.