Coors Light revives 'cold' marketing to overcome slump

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Coors Light is making a marketing freeze play in an attempt to reverse not-so-hot sales trends.

New digital videos promote "cold-activated cans," in which images of mountains turn blue to indicate the beer inside has reached the optimal temperature for drinking. The packaging gimmick is not new: Coors Light has used some variation of it since 2007. It has even spawned copycats, like the temperature-activated packaging Busch has used as far back as 2010, including recently rolling out limited-edition cans over the summer.

But Coors Light, which pioneered the use of technology (which uses thermochromic ink) in the beer category, hasn't talked about its color-changing labels in a while. The brand detoured into more serious marketing terrain in 2016 with the "Climb On" tagline that sought to build emotional bonds with drinkers by portraying people overcoming challenges.

But Coors Light's sales slump worsened. Earlier this year the brand began emphasising its classic "World's Most Refreshing Beer" tagline again, but it wasn't enough to prompt a turnaround. Coors Light case sales volumes were down 5.5 percent in the year-to-date period ending Sept. 8, according to Nielsen.

The new ads, by 72andSunny, dial-up the cold messaging with extreme close-ups of frosty cans. They'll be followed in January by a larger compaign including TV ads. "Climb On," is officially axed, confirms Ryan Marek, VP of marketing for the Coors family of brands at MillerCoors.

The end-game is to give drinkers a reason to choose Coors Light over other light beer competitors. "More and more people continue to believe that all American light lagers are the sameā€¦and easily interchangeable," Marek says. "We are really out to challenge those assumptions by focusing on a unique positioning."

Cold beer might not seem all that special. But Coors Light says it brewing technology, in which the fermentation process occurs at cooler temperatures than other lagers, sets it apart.

Whether that makes any difference is debatable. But cold as a marketing ploy is a proven tactic for Coors Light. The brand grew 9 percent in the five years ending in 2012, when it eclipsed Budweiser as the nation's second-largest beer. The growth came as marketing was full of frigid imagery like the Coors Light "Cold Train."

Marek declined to reveal details on the January campaign other than to say it would be "doubling down on our title as the world's most refreshing beer." Ads, he said, will be "familiar for those who love the brand and have been with us for years."

But that doesn't mean the Cold Train will make another run. "We'll certainly be playing into why we believe that campaign was so successful," he says. "But the train will stay at the station."

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