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

08 June

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.

These new identities came into play in mid 1987 after a plush corporate launch to the senior team in Bowral where the first edition of Bond Brewing World was given out.

Bond Brewing World issued at the launch of Bond Brewing

Bond Brewing World issued at the launch of Bond Brewing

I was editor of that magazine for its 13 editions. Supported by a great team of writers around the world, notably Brenda Walker (nee Kruger) at XXXX, the magazine covered the rapid growth of Bond Brewing.

The 14th edition was stopped on the presses as the company went into receivership.

Correcting an urban myth:
The big neon Mr XXXX sign on Milton Road was not taken down or changed in this Bondification.

I believe there was was an earlier and much humbler red Mr XXXX signed that winked on Milton Road but it was replaced with the present and much larger neon one in the late 80s.

Marketing Manager at the time, Geoff Northcott, was a champion for Mr XXXX remaining an icon and only used in that badge-like form. Ironically the manager who implemented that project was Craig Bond, son of Alan. He had a brief role in marketing at Castlemaine Perkins during the last year or so of his father’s ownership of XXXX.

An interesting era and certainly a unique start to a career in PR. And for that ..cheers


  • Chip Henriss

    I remember this time very well. Great aricle over what seems so long ago. I had actually frogotten about the sorry Bondy ads!