Corby deal aids U.S. invasion

Canada's largest distiller has inked a deal with Weston, Mo.-based McCormick Distilling that will introduce new products to both markets, and help speed up Toronto-based Corby Distilleries' plans to expand into the United States. Corby commands an impressive 27.2% of the...

Canada’s largest distiller has inked a deal with Weston, Mo.-based McCormick Distilling that will introduce new products to both markets, and help speed up Toronto-based Corby Distilleries’ plans to expand into the United States.

Corby commands an impressive 27.2% of the Canadian spirits market. But it’s a stagnant market, and the company has been eyeing the States as a potentially valuable new territory for Polar Ice vodka (see ‘Cold front coming from the North,’ Strategy, Jan. 31, 00) and its Whisky Guild trio of premium ryes. The deal with McCormick Distilling, the number eight player in the U.S., promises to give Corby the opportunity it’s been looking for.

‘In the United States, there are a lot of these single-barreled bourbons and single malts, but nothing to compete in that price range in Canadian whisky,’ says Chris Chan, vice-president of strategic planning with Corby. ‘We think (the Whisky Guild) will be great in terms of elevating the overall imagery of what Canadian whisky is in the U.S.’

The Whisky Guild will be positioned against premium bourbons and mass-market single-malt scotches like Glenlivet and Glenfiddich, he says, and will target relatively sophisticated drinkers. Polar Ice, on the other hand, will go after entry-level trendsetters.

To avoid spreading its resources too thinly, Corby will restrict its launch to 10 states, including strong vodka markets like Florida and Texas, says Chan, as well as parts of upstate New York. Marketing will focus on point of sale this year, with creative done in Canada but tweaked for the U.S. market by McCormick’s agency, Chicago-based Gamms. The Whisky Guild will launch in April, with Polar Ice joining it in June.

Corby will also be bringing McCormick’s Tequila Rose offering to Canada. The blend of tequila with cream and strawberry flavour is growing quickly in the States and is currently number two to Bailey’s Irish Cream among imported cream liqueurs, says Chan. It will be targeted to entry-level drinkers in the Prairie provinces.

The deal also gives the two companies access to other products in each other’s portfolios, but Chan concedes there aren’t a lot of gaps in Corby’s 60-brand roster. McCormick, however, might pick up brands from Corby’s line of cordials and ready-to-drink products.

Corby plans to spend the next five to eight years building its sales in the States with Polar Ice, Whisky Guild and to a lesser extent, its Wiser’s ryes, which are already distributed there. A one per cent share of the American vodka market would increase Corby’s sales by about 10%.

In the future, the Canadian company is planning to build its presence in Australia, New Zealand and parts of Asia.

From Karen Howe’s dining table: Creativity, COVID and Cannes

ICYMI, The Township's founder gathers the best of the best campaigns and trends so far.

Cannes Base Camp

By Karen Howe

I’m attending Cannes from the glory of my dining room table. There’s not a palm tree in sight, yet inspiration and intel are present in abundance.

Cannes Lions is a global cultural pulse check. The social course correction in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and BLM has delivered far greater diversity in the judging panels as well as the work. And we are all better for it.

I’m proud to say that creativity defeated COVID, which speaks to its power. Great work and big ideas flourished, despite unimaginable odds.

The work from the past two years spans a vast emotional range. From the profundity of Dove’s “Courage is Beautiful” to the hyper exuberance of Burberry’s “Festive,” they are opposite ends of the spectrum, but each answered a need in us.

Take note, the ascendency of gaming cannot be understated. Smart brands have embraced the channel. It makes sense, because gamers participate to meet others around the world, not just to play. And they represent a huge and powerful community. That’s why QSR Wendy’s gamified their iconic gal in RPG’s Feast of Legends.

Burger King sponsored the unknown Stevenage Football Club, transforming the team into online heroes and vaulting BK into the fray at the same time. Once again, the brand embedded itself in culture.

The birth of gaming tourism arrived when Xbox snuggled up to travel guides and created a brilliant baby: a travel guide for gaming worlds. It, too, embedded itself in culture.

From the standpoint of social good, Reporter Without Borders showed how it worked with Mindcraft for its “Uncensored Library” to bypass press censorship, with Minecraft providing a loophole to a space where young people could be educated. It provided youth with a powerful tool to fight oppression: truth.

COVID changed us in unexpected ways. We learned how to pay attention again and there was a notable lack of 30-second commercials. Instead, longer format content thrived. Apple’s WFH was seven minutes long. Entertainment reigned king, so we find ourselves returning to our advertising roots.

Seeing competitive brands form partnerships was one of this year’s other great surprises. The brilliantly simple “Beer Cap Project” by Aguila to reduce binge-drinking saw the brand reach out to competitive beers to join in. Aguila put incentivizing (keyword: free) reminders to drink water, eat food and get home safely on its bottle caps from all sorts of fast food chains, ride-share co’s and H2O brands.

On a personal level, I’m so proud of Canada again this year. Given that it was two years of work from all over the world being judged, even making the Cannes shortlist was an accomplishment. Canada is herding in the Lions in tremendous numbers – and it’s not even over. Fingers are crossed.

KAREN-HOWE-PIC-higher-rez-300x263Karen Howe is a Canadian Cannes Advisory Board Member and founder of The Township Group