Why Mexican Brew Montejo Is Sitting Out Cinco de Mayo

Anheuser-Busch Positions Montejo as 'Authentically Mexican'

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As a newly available Mexican imported beer, it seems logical that Montejo would make a big deal out of Cinco de Mayo, following in the tradition of other Mexican brews like Dos Equis and Corona. But in a calculated appeal to Hispanic consumers, the Anheuser-Busch InBev-owned brew is planning to ignore the holiday.

The reason? Cinco is largely an American phenomenon, and Montejo is trying to position itself as an authentically Mexican brew, said Ryan Garcia, A-B InBev's VP for Montejo. Cinco "really has no true meaning to a Mexican consumer," he said.

The brand will instead use point-of-sale marketing to celebrate the true origins of Cinco de Mayo, commemorating "El Dia de la Batalla de Puebla," when the Mexican army defeated French troops at a battle on May 5, 1862.

In the U.S., Cinco de Mayo has become largely a drinking occasion, with little connection to its roots in the Batalla de Puebla. In Mexico, the bigger holiday is actually Mexican Independence Day, celebrated on Sept. 16, when Mexico declared its independence from Spain, launching the decade-long Mexican War of Independence.

But in the U.S., Mexican beer brands have long seized on Cinco as one of the most important days on their marketing calendars. Heineken-owned Dos Equis for the past few years has even tried to promote "Dos de Mayo" in an attempt to extend the holiday. Or as the Most Interesting Man in the World says in ads, "Don't rush into Cinco, start with Dos."

But as more Mexican imports chase general market American consumers, Montejo is trying to seize on what A-B InBev execs view as an opening with first-and second-generation Mexican-American drinkers. So while competing brands like Modelo Especial and Tecate have begun advertising in English, Montejo will stick to Spanish-language ads. "It really is capitalizing on an unapologetically, authentically Mexican position," Mr. Garcia said.

Even among bicultural Hispanics -- those fluent in Spanish and English -- "there is a movement toward 'retro-acculturation,' or a mass movement toward all things that tie you to culture and heritage," Mr Garcia said.

For a recently launched digital campaign, Montejo is trying to get laughs by citing Spanish sayings whose direct English translations make no sense. The effort, called "Inglexican," is by LatinWorks. For example, in one Facebook post the brand refers to a Mexican colloquialism -- "¿Qué ondas?" -- that in Mexican Spanish roughly means "How's it Going?" But in English it translates directly to "What wave?" So the post shows a quick video of radio waves

The brand is also sponsoring an upcoming U.S. concert tour by the popular Mexican rock band Mana. Montejo has also run a product-focused TV spot (top of story). An upcoming TV spot will plug the Mana sponsorship.

The marketing moves are aimed at raising awareness for a brand that remains relatively regional, even in Mexico. It is named for the founding father of the city of Merida, Yucatan, Don Francisco de Montejo, according to the brand's web site.

A-B InBev assumed control of Montejo when the brewer acquired Mexican brewer Grupo Modelo in 2013. Montejo was launched in California, New Mexico, Arizona and Texas last year. A-B InBev has since brought the brew to Chicago, Nevada, Colorado, Washington, Oregon and central Florida.

In southern California -- a key Montejo target -- awareness is up to 33% among the targeted audience of first- and second-generation Mexican-Americans, according to the brewer.

But Montejo has a long way to go before seriously challenging Mexican import leaders Corona and Modelo Especial. The brands, which are imported by Constellation Brands, are enjoying strong growth and control 28% and 15% of the U.S. imported beer market respectively, according to IRI as of March 22. Montejo's share was 0.17%.