Cast in rock: Quebec Bud effort targets rockers where they drink

If you see an image of a guitar next to a glass of beer, do you immediately think of Budweiser? Probably not in English-speaking Canada, but in Quebec, rock music and Bud have become so synonymous that the marketer is looking for more subtle ways to reinforce its brand message.

If you see an image of a guitar next to a glass of beer, do you immediately think of Budweiser? Probably not in English-speaking Canada, but in Quebec, rock music and Bud have become so synonymous that the marketer is looking for more subtle ways to reinforce its brand message.

After 10 years of driving home Bud’s association with every possible rock icon, Labatt will launch a new indoor campaign across the province on April 5 aiming to reinforce its position as the beer for those with a ‘rock attitude.’

While maintaining the long-running tagline ‘Coulée dans le rock’ (a double-entendre translating to both ‘cast in rock’ and ‘poured in rock’), this latest campaign targets Bud’s usual 18-to-24 bar-going audience with a less obvious and more human connection to the rock theme.

Four executions located in trendy bars across the province feature close-ups of the human body with a belly-button ring, tongue stud, ear stud and contact lens all resembling a music speaker. The tagline is at the bottom of each ad beside a bottle of Bud.

‘We are talking to people who get rock attitude. Rock runs through their veins,’ says Laurent Prud’homme, senior copywriter at Montreal-based PALM Publicité Marketing, the agency behind the campaign.

While this campaign would possibly have little effect in English-speaking Canada, as the tagline is less punchy in translation, it works in the Quebec market because of the brand’s long-term association with rock music. According to PALM’s creative director, Nicolas Dubé: ‘we could mask the bottle of beer in the poster, and everyone in Quebec would still know it’s a Bud ad. We always use rock music, whether it’s a TV or a radio ad or sponsorship.’

Other beer brands in Quebec have been less successful at building a brand around music, according to Dubé, due to a lack of consistency. ‘Other brands change a lot, using different kinds of music, so the consumer gets a little lost,’ he says. ‘Bud owns rock music in Quebec because we are always knocking on the same door.’

Another factor supporting Bud’s approach is the enduring power and popularity of hard-core rock within the province, even as the genre becomes a shrinking niche elsewhere, Dubé believes. ‘All our research shows that people in Quebec relate very well to rock,’ he says. ‘I don’t know if a campaign like this would work so well in the rest of Canada. It is very important to know your target and feed into their mind-set.’

In contrast to Quebec, English-speaking Canada relies heavily on a connection with sports and male-bonding activities to promote the Budweiser brand.

Although Budweiser’s marketing has traditionally been skewed to the male demographic, Dubé believes that the latest campaign will strike a chord with females too. ‘Women enjoy beer too. This campaign appeals to anyone who enjoys nightlife and music, and enjoys beer.’

While aiming to evolve the existing brand image in the long-term, this campaign is also intended to drive sales in the short-term. ‘We want to drive traffic in those trendy bars, so you see the poster and know that Bud is the only way to go,’ says Montreal-based Sophie Henault, brand manager for Budweiser in Quebec.

The poster campaign comes on the heels of two TV spots which launched across the province in March, also promoting ‘rock attitude’ in real-life situations. Both ads feature the trademark rock music.

‘Street crowd’ shows a young guy diving from his second-floor window into a crowd of revelers and subsequently crowd-surfing through the streets until he gets to his final destination – a rock concert. The second, ‘Adieu,’ shows several guys packing their backpacks and bidding farewell to their girlfriends. You then see them sitting on a street corner getting soaked by spray from a passing car. The camera pulls back to show that they are in fact waiting at the back of a very long line to go to a rock concert.

As with previous campaigns, PALM and Budweiser conducted extensive research and focus groups prior to launching both the TV and poster campaigns. ‘We always hear the same thing,’ says Dubé. ‘People like rock and they like what we do. We’re on to a winning formula.’

Client: Budweiser

Agency: PALM Publicité Marketing

Senior Brand Manager: Sophie Hénault

Account Group Head: Marie-Hélène Rivard

Account Director: Stéphane Hamel

Creative Director: Nicolas Dubé

Copywriter: Laurent Prud’Homme

Art Director: Anik Ouellet

Print Producer: Suzanne Mainville

Photographer: Pierre Choinière