Coors Light exec dishes on brand's comeback plan, agency relationships

New ads dial-up 'World's Most Refreshing Beer' positioning

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Coors Light is coming in from the mountains and heading back to the bar as it looks to overcome a long-running sales slump. A new round of ads portrays sweaty, thirsty people grabbing some frosty brews in search of a refreshing respite.

One ad (above) is set inside a hot bar. Another one shows a sun-drenched tailgate party.

The scenes are a curious creative choice, considering that much of the country is buried in snow or dealing with freezing temperatures. But Ryan Reis, VP of the Coors family of brands for MillerCoors, says the approach is meant to dial-up Coors Light's longtime marketing position as the "World's Most Refreshing Beer."

The brand began trying to reclaim the tagline last March when it moved away from the more serious "Climb On" campaign that portrayed people overcoming challenges. But the first round of ads were set entirely in the backwoods and mountains in an approach that seemed tailored for nature enthusiasts, not everyday bar-goers.

The new ads, by Coors Light agency-of-record 72andSunny, come as Coors Light sales continue to plummet. Case volume fell 6.3 percent in the year-to-date period ending Nov. 24, according to Nielsen. The bright spot, if there is one, is that Coors Light, the nation's second-largest beer, is not doing as badly as No. 1 Bud Light, whose trends have worsened lately. Coors Light has lost 0.4 market share points in the year-to-date period, while Bud Light has lost a full point.

Reis took the Coors job in September, after previously serving as MillerCoors' VP of field marketing. Below, Reis explains Coors Light's new approach, its media investment plans and touches on the brand's relationship with 72andSunny. The responses were gathered via email.

Explain how your approach is changing and why you think this will work?

Over the past few years, we moved aggressively to make Coors Light more premium, which is the right thing to do. But we lost ourselves a bit along the way. We moved too far from the core of what makes us recognizable as the World's Most Refreshing Beer, and we gave up some of our relevance in drinkers' lives.

So, we are going back to truly being the "World's Most Refreshing Beer," rooted in our ownership of cold. For example, our cold-activated packaging is very symbolic for the brand. When the mountains turn blue, it means Coors Light is at the perfect temperature to bring refreshment. And younger consumers, believe it or not, didn't know that. When we asked, they said really? That's so cool. And they didn't know, because we stopped telling them.

That's why we started running "Cold Activated" spots back in September, and you will see it across OOH, digital, and social.

Our next phase is to launch these new ads that show why cold refreshment matters. We are putting Coors Light cold refreshment at the center of a classic advertising arc: problem, solution, benefit. People start out hot, exhausted, and disconnected, but grabbing a Coors Light changes their situation, leaving them refreshed, reinvigorated, and social again.

Brand volume remains down more than 6 percent year-to-date. Do you have any evidence that the renewed emphasis on refreshment s working?

We are just at the very beginning of this shift, and it takes time to reach people, and for the messaging to take hold. Digital launched at the end of Sept. OOH in October, TV in December. We have so much more yet to come. Also, it's a hard thing to say to Ad Age, but advertising by itself won't turn this brand. It will provide a beacon.

The new ads portray people in hot situations, but these ads come in the middle of winter. Any concern that they might not resonate because of this?

We think that the experience of being hot and tired are familiar enough to resonate regardless of the time of year—we can all identify with that feeling and know what it's like to be refreshed.

Are you increasing media behind these ads?

Our buy will increase from last year and we are making our investment much more efficient. We're shifting more of budget towards digital and social channels to ensure that our message is reaching our target growth consumers at the right place and time.

MillerCoors recently shifted Coors Banquet away from 72andSunny to Mekanism. Traditionally, Banquet and Coors Light have stayed at the same agency. Are you committed to using 72andSunny on Coors Light for the foreseeable future?

We are really happy with the pivot that 72andSunny has made to this new campaign for Coors Light. They are building out the next phase of OOH, print, radio, digital, and social as we speak. For Banquet, our focus will really be on digital, and it makes sense to award the work to experts we already have on roster.

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