Beerlines

Insights on beer marketing & PR by a beer-war vet

Archive for the 'Bond Brewing' Category

08 June
1Comment

The short-lived Bond Brewing World. An insider’s view

America’s Cup winning skipper John Bertand summarises the man well. Alan Bond was “polarising”.

And so it was with Bond Corporation’s involvement in brewing.

I had joined Castlemaine Perkins Limited in October 1986 as Public Affairs Manager. Early the next year, MD of the brewery, Frank Burnett, summoned me to his office in our Finchley Street HQ overlooking the XXXX brewery.

Without words, but with obvious disgust, Frank threw the now infamous Bond Brewing repositioning plan across his desk. I opened my mouth to object. Frank just shook his head and, as I recall, said: “Every objection you can think of has been raised. Just do it. Get the signage underway and, oh yes, you’re now editing the central magazine. Close down every brewery’s in-house newsletters.”

So, the big ugly stainless steel Bond Brewing sign on Milton Road replaced the long-standing Castlemaine Perkins sign.

Bond Brewing replaces the Castlemaine Perkins sign: a great PR lesson

Bond Brewing replaces the Castlemaine Perkins sign: a great PR lesson

For Queenslanders it was bad enough – just tolerable – that XXXX was owned by a West Australian, but to do this …

This was a serious wounding to the Castlemaine Perkins’ image and its brands. Indeed, this helped open the door to a new competitor, Power Brewing (link to an overview of that era by Matt Kirkegaard).

Sorry Bondy!
Powers launched with a stinging put-down of XXXX via a television commercial featuring Queensland rugby league legend Wally Lewis, saying “Sorry Bondy!”powers

While the other breweries went through the same repositioning it’s fair to say it was Castlemaine and XXXX that were most adversely impacted by consumer backlash and competitor response.

In early 1990 Bond Brewing went into receivership and Lion Nathan took over the breweries later that year.

Those who ignore history..
Bondy, or rather Bond Corporation, took over the Swan Brewery in his home state of Western Australia in 1981. Thereafter he took over east coast brewing conglomerate Castelmaine-Tooheys in 1983. His company now oversaw about half of the national beer market.

While the media loved the glitz of Bondy’s brewing business with his Swan airships, Schooner XXXX, sponsorships and beer jingles by Mo and Jo, the stock market was less impressed. Again: polarising.

Make ‘Bond’ ubiquitous!
To remedy this, the Corporation’s board believed they would attract major institutional investors by renaming all his breweries as Bond Brewing.

This step remains a case study in ‘how to lose generations of consumer loyalty overnight’ as well as one of corporate hubris. Indeed, it’s a lesson a number of big corporate brewers seem to have ignored .. still. And they wonder why ‘small and local’ is doing so well .. Bond Brewing XXXX

Polarising is an under statement.

Because, under the direction of Bond Brewing’s Executive Director, Bill Widerberg, Castlemaine Perkins, Tooheys and Swan were very publicly rebadged as Bond Brewing Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australia respectively. As if this wasn’t enough for parochial beer drinkers of the time, Bond Corporation also changed the addresses on all labels to the corporate address in Perth. Read more…

02 February
1Comment

Australian owned: does it make a difference?

Back after a sabbatical, I note Coopers Brewery signage re-emphasising its Australian ownership.

Not surprising in light of CUB and LION – the majority of the national beer market – now being foreign owned.

I question how much of an influence this appeal to national loyalty is with beer drinkers.coopers sign

Years ago national, or rather state, loyalty would have been far more important to the parochial beer consumer.

Not any more.

For a number of reasons, not least is so many brewery ownership changes and global brand swaps in recent years, consumers can barely keep up!

Ownership is no longer as influential
Who owns Corona or Cascade? Who owns Little Creatures or Löwenbräu? Who owns Stella Artois or Stone & Wood?

Who cares?

I doubt we’ll see again the outcry and consumer backlash created when the traditional big state brewers like Swan, Castlemaine Perkins, Cascade and others were bought by interlopers from interstate or overseas.
xxxx

I’m not dismissing loyalty – in this case nationalistic – as a marketing influence: albeit I think it a waning one.

But as modern beer consumers increasingly choose from an expanding personal portfolio of preferred domestic and global brands and styles to suit various drinking occasions, I question the value of putting too many marketing dollars behind appeals to Australian ownership.

Parochialism is not dead. It’s just not guaranteed state-wide anymore 
While Coopers is talking more about ‘national share’ and pitching itself against the foreign-owned big guys, many new and emerging craft breweries are securing solid local loyalty and support.

I mean really local: local local: micro local.

In many ways the beer market is coming full circle.

As the big breweries aspire to globalised ownership clouds, savvy craft breweries are reclaiming local grassroots.

And to that: Cheers!

20 March
0Comments

CUB tells Foster’s to F off!

Good signs for brewing, quite literally, at Southbank in Melbourne’s CBD.

On the busy corner at 77 Southbank Boulevard, Foster’s corporate signage has been pulled down at its HQ of many years. The F word has gone, making way for a return to the traditional roundel logo of Carlton & United Breweries (CUB).

The earlier stainless steel Foster's corporate

The earlier stainless steel Foster’s corporate: pic from ABC Radio AM website

The new/old CUB sign replaces Foster’s at the Southbank HQ

The move will ruffle a few feathers. Some old guard Foster’s corporates, going right back to its foundation in John Elliot’s days, might wince.

At the end of the day however it was simple physics. Foster’s Group Limited never created the critical mass required to be a global player. Pity; it could have.

Good to see CUB back though. Great to see that SAB-Miller stuck with the more familiar and established logo and did not go with that silly overly-designed (glass of friendship) CUB logo devised under CEO John Pollaers.

Bringing it back to the consumer
SAB-Miller now faces a similar challenge to that faced by Lion Nathan when they took over Bond Brewing i.e. In the wake of very high profile corporate ownership changes, how do you bring the traditional brand back to the consumer?

Answering this question is even more challenging nowadays with corporate ownership made so much more public and transparent through online and social media.

We will watch and see and perhaps have a Carlton Draught every now and then to plot progress.

Cheers!

 

27 October
0Comments

Brand building versus brewing

Not sure I like hearing ‘brewery’ and ‘brand building’ in the same sentence. There’s a clash.

But that’s what happens when beers, and their brands, go corporate. Brands become company assets and brand building is a tune played for shareholders and investors.

Don’t get me wrong. My concern is about letting that tune (the C-suite?) get too loud in consumers’ ears.

I know how critical and strategic the brand development process is, or rather must be, for beer brands to succeed. I am in awe of it and those who do it well.

But …

While I know that consumers buy brands, I’m not sure how engaged they are, or want to be, in branding per se: in the science and conceptual landscape that is ‘brand’.

When brewers call themselves ‘brand builders’ I can’t help but think beer lovers put their fingers in their ears and yodel “la la la la”.

The trick is to keep the audiences separate: consumers and their beers on the one hand and investors and their brand building on the other.

Easier said than done.

Heritage & Tradition
Does the process of building a brand mean that a beer should lose its heritage and tradition?

I raise this query after reviewing the website for Australia’s biggest ‘beer brand producer’, LION. It’s now a food and beverage corporation, and tell a good F&B story.

However I’m not sure after viewing their website I’d warmly call LION ‘Australia’s biggest brewer’ – as it is.

LION’s website states: “We are a brand building company, focused on growing our strongest brands and markets. We recognise the importance of clearly differentiating and developing our brands, to excite and engage our consumers and grow returns for our customers.”

The lyrics of beer & brewing 
To my ear LION’s tune is missing the lyrics of beer and brewing, the bricks and mortar stuff, you know, where the beer comes from. Warm and fuzzy – well probably ‘cold and fizzy’.

Yes I know it’s a corporate site. Maybe they need to sing those words elsewhere. Maybe as my colleague Michel Hogan (who knows more about brands than most) suggests LION provide an online space for those who love beer in preference to brands.

To be fair LION has an Our History timeline noting the business is: “Formed by the amalgamation of some of Australia and New Zealand’s most celebrated food and beverage companies, Lion has a rich local heritage.”

But somehow ‘rich local heritage’ are not the words I’m hearing. Rather: I hear the bass beat of ‘brand building’ loud and clear.

I don’t think I’m alone in wanting to also drink the heritage and tradition that goes along with my beer of choice. I like the reality and the geography that goes with ‘my’ Castlemaine Perkins Limited, or my Swan, West End, Tooheys and CUB. Just as I like it with my Cavalier and Mountain Goat.

I believe beer drinkers love that stuff and want to hear it in preference to brand building aggrandisement.

Consumers or shareholders: website as shopfront
It’s an almost impossible job confining corporate language to the Boardroom and C-suite. But nowadays your website is your shop-front.

Choices are made to put that corporate language out there – front and centre.

Maybe LION’s website needs a separate ‘tradesman’s entrance’ for investors and equity houses as many other corporate websites have.

Speaking of appealing to investors to the exclusion of consumers: one hopes LION learned from its infamous corporate shift to Bond Brewing.

Just as it would appear CUB has learned from its brief use of the ugly tagline ‘Building Great Australian Brands’ and – more ugly – changing its name to Carlton & United Beverages.

And ..really? When was the last time you heard anyone say they ‘consumed beverages’?

Cheers!

19 September
6Comments

VB and Alan Bond: big lessons in taking beer consumers for granted

‘We put the consumer first.’

Any trust which mainstream beer consumers held for this claim, and the big brewers that made it has, too often, been shaken.

This post highlights two big lessons from both of Australia’s major brewers.

One is recent concerning VB. The other is from the 1980s but still provides relevant learnings in how not to treat loyal beer consumers. It concerns Alan Bond and his Bond Brewing empire.

Alan who? 
Fair question. The lesson however comes from what his Bond Corporation did to the three major state breweries it took over. They made up over half the national beer market and are now owned by LION, Australia’s largest brewer.

Bond Brewing corporate stainless steel replaces the Castlemaine Perkins sign

There are two great articles in Australia’s Beer and Brewer magazine which cover this fascinating and calamitous period in Australian brewing : one by ex-Four Corners journalist Paul Barry and the other by leading beer writer Matt Kirkegaard, editor of Australian Brews News.

A band-aid approach to trust
High-profile and public ‘whoops: we got it wrong’ flip-flops might help restore some trust. In the end though, loyal consumers still think they were taken for granted and ask ‘when will it happen again?’

The silver lining to these marketing and PR blunders is some big lessons for small brewers in what not to do in building and maintaining consumer trust.

Trust is hard to develop; easily lost; and unforgivingly hard to patch up. Band-aids only go so far.

If consumers really are your number one priority then you must live and breathe that focus 100%:  honestly, openly and transparently. Otherwise – especially in our increasingly networked market – your ‘trust’ credentials will be probed and found wanting.

Here are the two classic case studies in taking Australian beer consumer trust for granted:

VB’s apology letter in the press

VB: stuffing the golden goose Read more…