Corona Ads Wander Away From the Beach

Global Repositioning Puts Emphasis on Social Gatherings

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CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- After 16 years, Corona is leaving the beach -- everywhere but in the U.S.

The No. 1 U.S. import beer last week debuted a global repositioning on its relaunched Corona.com site that moves away from the long-held "vacation in a bottle" approach typically linked to beachfront imagery. Instead, it's now emphasizing "refreshing moments" at parties and other social settings, according to the agency that revamped the site. To emphasize the point, the new site incorporates social networking via technology called "Photoslice" that animates and shares photos uploaded by its users.
Corona's new website offers a 'Photoslice' function that lets users upload and share photos.
Corona's new website offers a 'Photoslice' function that lets users upload and share photos.

"The [new] brand position was handed down by Corona itself," said Cyrus Vantoch-Wood, creative director at Atmosphere BBDO, which works for brand owner Modelo. "It's a reflection both of Corona's brand equity ... as the beer three or four friends might enjoy while relaxing on an apartment-building roof ... and also the refreshing, easy-to-drink attributes of the beer itself." Modelo did not respond for comment by press time.

Sales slipping
The global repositioning comes as Corona finishes its second straight year of sales declines in the U.S. following 16 years of uninterrupted growth here. After a 20-year tenure, the brand's top domestic marketing executive, Tom McNichols -- a key advocate and defender of the beachfront strategy -- recently departed Crown Imports, which imports the brand in the U.S. (Crown said a search to replace him is under way, and that his duties will be handled by a group of his former subordinates until then.)

But despite the global site, a spokesman for Crown Imports said the brand has no intention to alter its positioning in the states, regardless of what U.S. consumers see when they visit Corona.com. "We're planning to stay on the beach," he said. "That's not going to change."

He pointed to a "Corona Beach" website, designed by Crown's U.S. agency, Cramer-Krasselt, that launched in the U.S. earlier this year, and the brand's high-profile sponsorship of singer Kenny Chesney, who has appeared in some beach-set creative.

Global thinking could misfire locally
Big global brands such as Heineken and Stella Artois have traditionally tried, and sometimes struggled, to balance the economically driven desire for a consistent global brand platform with the often uneven statuses that those brands enjoy in different markets. Stella, for instance, is a luxury brand in the U.S. but earned the derisive nickname "wife beater" in the U.K., where price cuts have diluted its status.

Those umbrella positions can be effective, Mr. Vantoch-Wood said, so long as they don't contradict what's being said about a brand locally. "I see 'refreshing moments' as something that's there in the [beach] positioning already," he said. "It doesn't feel like a complete reinvention."
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