Molson removes preservatives from its entire product lineup

The new marketing realities - those that embrace such notions as better customer service, listening much more closely to what consumers have to say, and bringing added value to the table - have hit Molson Breweries with full force.Late last week...

The new marketing realities – those that embrace such notions as better customer service, listening much more closely to what consumers have to say, and bringing added value to the table – have hit Molson Breweries with full force.

Late last week the brewery announced a number of sweeping initiatives that would have been unheard of even five years ago in beer marketing.

- In response to widespread consumer concern over product purity, Molson has announced that from here on all preservatives have been eliminated from its entire product lineup.

- Also reacting to consumers’ desire for higher quality and greater option in the beers they buy, Molson has launched a ‘Signature Series’ of beers that harken back to the brewery’s formative years in Canada. The first two brands in the series are called Cream Ale and Amber Lager.

- As a means of cementing its relationship with licensees, Molson has developed a ‘customer care program’ in which licensees can tap into favorable deals for products and services through ibm, Toshiba and Marsh and McLennan Insurance.

These are only the first three of what could be more alliances arranged through Molson and offered to its licensee customers as an ‘added-value’ service from Molson.

- To help in understanding its consumers better, and to try to establish a communications link between Molson and the beer-drinking public, the brewery has introduced a 1-800 number that will be carried soon on all Molson products.

‘It is important that we establish a dialogue with the consumer,’ says Molson President Bruce Pope.

‘We need to show people that we are listening to them,’ Pope says. ‘We want them to be able to talk to us, and we want an opportunity to respond to them.’

These latest initiatives, which were announced coincidentally with a major restructuring in Molson’s marketing, sales and distribution, are the outgrowth of a comprehensive study that the brewery has conducted over the past year with its customers and consumers.

‘The research was really trying to give us a feel for how they’re doing, the changing dynamics of their lives, and how we, as a corporate entity, stack up,’ Pope says.

Some of Molson’s findings, such as consumers’ increasing health-consciousness, the desire for something other than ‘mainstream vanilla,’ and a tough business climate faced by licensees provided a stimulus that led to the brewery’s new products and services.

Also, at a time when Canadian breweries face the threat of stepped-up competition from the u.s., Molson’s research reaffirmed that some inherent strengths among domestic breweries remain intact.

‘There is a bond that exists between beer-drinkers in this country and their breweries that defies consumer product logic,’ Pope says.

‘There is a pride in Canadian beer,’ he says. ‘They see it as different and superior to American beer.

‘Molson is a distinct entity in their minds, an institution and not a manufacturer.

‘There is a bond that transcends the liquid in the bottle. There is a partnership that is different and unique, and one that we intend to preserve.’

On the organizational front, Molson has completed an overhaul of sales, distribution and marketing that involves the elimination of three senior positions and the adoption of a centralized reporting structure.

Molson rival Labatt Breweries of Canada also underwent a restructuring about two years ago in which it, too, removed regional authority in favor of a centralized structure.

However, Labatt opted for a regional management centre, whereas Molson has centralized according to function rather than geography.

Roger Clarkson, senior vice-president of marketing, Robin Millward, vice-president of public affairs for Western Canada and Ron Simpson, the head of Molson’s motorsport division, have all left the brewery.

In the marketing department, Dave Perkins, senior vice-president of marketing, who shared the title and authority with Clarkson, now assumes the top marketing position on his own.

Another major change in marketing sees Blair Shier, former head of sales for the West, move to Toronto to take on the newly created position of vice-president of brand management.

Shier has a parallel position to that of Gene Lewis, vice-president of business development.

Under the new structure, all sales and distribution will report to Andre Tranchmontagne, the newly appointed senior vice-president of sales and distribution.

Tranchmontagne moves to Toronto from Montreal, where he had been senior vice-president of Molson O’Keefe.

He now reports directly to Pope. Previously, three regional sales, distribution and public affairs heads based in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver each reported to Pope.

John Winter, formerly head of sales and distribution based in Vancouver, becomes vice-president of public affairs for Western Canada, reporting to Charles Fremes, senior vice-president of public affairs, in Toronto.