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Faced with launching an unfamiliar beer with an even more unusual name, Borsod Brewery knew it had to make a splash in Hungary. So, in late May, Jolan Keszte, the brewery's product group manager, threw a kick-off party for 600 gues ts in an airport hangar. She also made sure Hungary's pubs took part in her company's Europe-wide Pit-Stop Challenge promotion. And, along with McCann-Erickson, Budapest, she targeted nonconformist 18- to 25-year-olds with an ad ca mpaign centered on a :45 TV spot filmed in Arizona. The ad, featuring young people in a convertible traveling around the desert, captures the spirit of an untamed country, Ms. Keszte said. The payoff was slow, but steady: In three weeks, Rolling Rock gained a 1% market share in the crowded premium licensed beer category; by mid-October the share had climbed to 2.1%. Rolling Rock achieved its half-year sales goal of 12,000 hectoliters (one hectoliter equals 1 00 liters, or 26.4 U.S. gallons) by the end of September."We could have sold twice that in the summer," said Ms. Keszte, 40. Although responsible for Borsod's foreign brands for the past 2 1/2 years, the product manager was caugh t off guard by the high demand for Rolling Rock: "We couldn't supply enough beer because we didn't have enough packaging."Through the clamoring, Ms. Keszte succeeded in distinguishing Rolling Rock from the competition. No small f eat, considering that the battle among Hungary's seven major breweries, which are owned by five of the world's largest brewers, is fierce.Belgium's Interbrew S.A., which owns Borsod Brewery, is understandably buoyed by Rolling Rock 's success. "We believe what we have done in Hungary could be used in other East European countries in the near future," said Michel Georgis, Interbrew's sales and marketing director for Eastern and Central Europe and China.Inter brew acquired Rolling Rock through a merger last year with Canada's John Labatt, which held rights to the beer, originally developed in Pennsylvania. Hungary was the first country Interbrew chose for the brand's roll-out in Europe, where the strategy is to keep prices down by producing Rolling Rock locally rather than importing it.In another attempt to differentiate the beer, the creative team eliminated the beer glass-a prominent feature in most Hungarian b eer commercials. Ads told consumers to drink the smoother, lighter Rolling Rock straight from the bottle. The $560,000 nationwide ad campaign used point-of-sale, radio, TV and outdoor ads. The slogan: "Rolling Rock beer. Fresh American taste."
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