Viral marketing effort adds fuel to Molson’s database

A small online program designed to reinforce Molson Breweries' 'Canadian Pride' positioning - as well as beef up the brewer's database of beer quaffers - grew into an overwhelming success, thanks to its viral marketing component....

A small online program designed to reinforce Molson Breweries’ ‘Canadian Pride’ positioning – as well as beef up the brewer’s database of beer quaffers – grew into an overwhelming success, thanks to its viral marketing component.

The Great Canadian Survivor Challenge, executed by Nine Dots of Toronto, piggybacked on the hot Global Television franchise Survivor. The animated quiz allowed players to accumulate Survivor Days to see if they could be the last one left standing if Survivor was ever held in Canada.

Molson’s purchase of airtime on Global’s Survivor II prompted Nine Dots to think of ways to tie that to the Web site, while building the database.

Carolyn Convey, media director at Nine Dots, says the overriding strategy for every campaign the company works on for Molson is to drive acquisition and develop the database.

‘Following that, we have principles we have found to be successful in doing that. One is to make sure we have integrated online and offline campaigns. We find that works extremely well. They play off one another and that makes both work harder,’ says Convey.

The Great Canadian Survivor Challenge ran from the end of January to the beginning of May, and was accessed via the I Am Canadian homepage, The viral marketing element, ‘Challenge a Friend,’ encouraged participants to e-mail the link and compete against their friends.

It was this challenge that lured more than 116,000 players to the game says Jo-Anne McArthur, VP, marketing assets at Molson. After all, what young, beer-drinking Canadian male wouldn’t jump at the chance to best his friends in any endeavor?

McArthur says: ‘What we found was, on average, every participant turned around and challenged three friends, which is pretty amazing. It allows you to tap into a community that might otherwise be a little tough to get.

‘Certainly, our target with this whole [online] area is the same as with any of our programs – legal drinking age through to 24 primary. With Canadian, it’s a little broader, a little more mainstream but still that key 19 to 29 age group, with a skew to men. They’re a tough group to get hold of; they’re very mobile.’

She adds: ‘If you can find the sweet spot, it’s amazing. It also tells you the power of viral marketing. It wasn’t as if we were prizing a huge amount – only a beer fridge and a snowboard.’

While virtually all of Molson’s marketing programs are fully integrated across media, the Great Canadian Survivor Challenge – because it was primarily to build the database – was supported totally online. And that support was limited to a banner on and a rich media ad on the backend of Survivor video footage on the same site.

McArthur says the strength of viral marketing is also that it ensured participants would virtually all be Molson’s target group because players would contact like-minded friends of similar age.

While being of legal drinking age was the only proviso for playing the game, the majority of participants (59%) also opted into Molson’s database. McArthur credits the compelling and entertaining content of the Survivor Challenge for the viral components exceeding those of previous campaigns and acquisition objectives by nearly 300%.

Some of the information gathered includes email address, age group, gender, address and postal code, whether beer consumption is heavy or light, and top three beer brand preferences. Not all fields were mandatory.

Those in the database are now members in the Molson Insider Program. As true insiders, members find out about other contests and in-case promotions before they become public. They are also offered Sneaky Peeks – the chance to view the latest Molson commercial before it goes to air.

Segmentation of the database will see it divided up based on consumption behavior and whether members are majority or minority Molson brand loyalists. Light or occasional beer drinkers and those loyal to other brands won’t be ignored, but the offers and information they receive could be different than those sent to Molson loyal, heavy users.

McArthur says the database will also fuel other Molson marketing efforts down the road and have an impact on both online and offline programs, from licensee promotions all the way through to advertising and interactive.

Nothing is ever done in isolation, she says. ‘We look at it as eCRM rather than just the Internet. It’s another marketing tool, one that needs to be integrated. When a brand team is briefing their advertising agency, they’re also briefing Molson’s Interactive and the eCRM groups at the same time.

‘Our philosophy has always been to leverage what you have offline online. If you go to our site, we’re leveraging our offline assets, but we’re also using our online presence to get people back out there into our licensees and to our events.’

Molson has been building its database for quite some time via online hockey pools and other interactive events. The site, which has recently gone through a major overhaul, is frequently refreshed with activities linked to Molson’s latest marketing efforts. One of the favorites since the popular ‘Rant’ commercial is The Wall, an area that sustains the equity of that rallying cry by allowing visitors to post their own ‘Rant’ – or comment on anything from Molson’s advertising and beer to movies, events and sports.

The ‘Here’s to you, Canada’ campaign now on air has its own Toastmaster territory. It provides prompts to users wanting to build their own toast to Canada, and gives assistance on rhyming as well. Some of the consumer creations are posted on the site, including one of the most recent:

‘Here’s to our homeland

Majestic and grand,

And a flag that stands so free.

Here’s to the mountains and trees

To Grizzly bears and bumble bees

And loving this country like me!’

Continuing the ‘exclusive’ member or community atmosphere of, users are treated to online-only features, such as an animated ‘Here’s to you’ commercial specially created for the site.

‘Online is all coming from the same brief, the same objectives,’ says McArthur. ‘But knowing you’ve got a certain audience, it’s got a little more entertainment value in some ways.

‘The specially made commercial was developed under the same idea as ‘Here’s to you,’ but it has a slightly different twist. It’s a little more tongue in cheek and funnier than our television commercial.’v