Father Works Best for Canadian Club

Strategy Shift, Stronger Spending Raises Sales of Sedentary Whiskey Brand

By Published on .

CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- Alcohol marketers generally regard being labeled a brand your father would drink as a death knell, but Canadian Club's embrace of that distinction seems to be reversing one of the industry's longest-running sales declines.
Canadian Club received $3.5 million on measured media last year, 91% of which came in magazine advertising in November and December, after the 'Damn Right' campaign launched.
Canadian Club received $3.5 million on measured media last year, 91% of which came in magazine advertising in November and December, after the 'Damn Right' campaign launched.

The Canadian whiskey brand in November introduced a new campaign declaring, "Damn right your dad drank it." The mostly print effort attempted to redefine dad as less Ward Cleaver and more "Mad Men" through provocative statements like "Your mom wasn't your dad's first."

The early returns suggest it may be working. Case volume of Canadian Club in food, drug and liquor stores rose 4.4% in the 13 weeks ending March 8, outpacing the category and its dominant brand, Diageo's Crown Royal, during the same stretch, according to AC Nielsen data.

A revelation
Those gains may sound modest, but in the context of Canadian Club's performance over the past two decades, they border on a revelation. Case shipments fell from 3.9 million in 1980 to 1.5 million in 1995, trickling down to 1.3 million last year, according to Impact's Annual Spirits Study.

That's the pattern of a brand left with only its most devoted drinkers, like, you know, your dad. So the challenge, then, was to make dad into an icon of traditional masculinity, someone younger male drinkers would want to emulate.

"People are being bombarded with 'Sex and the City' and appletinis," said Rory Finlay, chief marketing officer of Beam Global Wine & Spirits, Canadian Club's parent. "We've been able to take the brand's historical baggage and flip it on its head in that environment."

To capitalize on that success, Mr. Finlay said, the brand is expanding the "Damn Right" campaign, which was created by Energy BBDO, Chicago, through various guerrilla-marketing episodes at bars and clubs. One recent event in Chicago featured Canadian Club brand boosters holding workshops on putting neckties in Windsor knots; another saw the brand construct its own shoeshine stand in a nightspot.

Insert your dad in custom ads
There's also a new online application through the brand's website that lets consumers insert their own fathers into custom Canadian Club ads. Then again, the brand's surge can also be attributed to the fact that the company is putting some bucks behind the brand for the first time in awhile. Canadian Club received $3.5 million on measured media last year, 91% of which came in magazine advertising in November and December, after the campaign launched.

And the apparent success that's followed since flies in the face of a category that's been flat, at best, in recent years. "You [normally] don't see much growth there," said Frank Walters, director of research at Impact.

The "Damn Right" campaign was the first in Beam Global's effort -- announced last summer -- to devote all of its media and marketing efforts toward generating word-of-mouth buzz for its brands.
In this article:
Most Popular