Molson paints it black

Molson goes premium with M, but how classy is it? Max Valiquette and Jenny Smith weigh in.

The only thing micro about Molson M is its carbonation process. The premium lager recently launched across the country, after testing in Quebec and the Atlantic provinces.
In a feature on Molson in strategy’s February issue, Molson Coors president and CEO Dave Perkins said “you’ll see innovation and efforts from Molson Coors that broaden the amount of alcohol occasions that are relevant to beer.”
This is one of those efforts. Molson M goes after a different beer drinker: a down-to-earth person who values innovation and is an opinion leader. The brew also links itself to different kinds of drinking occasions, distancing itself from sport to align more with a sophisticated night out.
“Molson can be perceived as mass production by certain consumers,” says Francois David, senior brand manager, Molson M.  “We’ve been wanting to have a beer that has a more premium image.”
The new lager is made using a microcarbonation process exclusive to Molson, touted in a TV spot, OOH posters and a website, which bowed in March. The creative, developed by BBDO, includes a TV spot that shows the beer cascading across the screen, gradually filling the letter M. “The idea was to focus on the beauty of the liquid,” says David.     
We asked strategic planner and consultant Max Valiquette (formerly of Youthography) and Jenny Smith, creative group head, St. John’s-based Target, to tell us if Molson M will successfully shift perceptions around beer’s rightful place on the table.   

Overall strategy
The strategy is bang-on. Anything that gives Molson a more robust, more differentiated portfolio of brands is exactly what they should be doing. The innovation of the product itself is also solid. To me, the concept of microcarbonation and smoothness fits well with the stated desire to make this a more modern and stylish beer brand.
Smith: The beer looks very tasty, but there’s nothing to set it apart from any other premium beer. Yes, they claim it’s lager with microcarbonation, but if Molson’s trying to target people who are looking for “innovation” then wouldn’t it make sense to explain the microcarbonation process? One thing they’ve done well: I understand it’s not a beer I’d buy and chug by the case on a Friday night with the guys.

Beer perceptions
I love the idea of the premium positioning, but I just don’t get that from the brown bottle and the black and gold label actually looks sort of downmarket to me. Loving the strategy, here, but I don’t think that this is necessarily executing on it. Still, it’s a good start, and shows that Molson is serious about upping its game.
Smith: Molson M adds a new layer to the Molson brand, but it doesn’t really make me think of Molson as a premium beer company. What I do take from the spot, though, is that I can enjoy a light-tasting Molson product without being surrounded by bikini-clad babes (which is even more refreshing than the beer).

Valiquette: The colour of the liquid is still generic lager. Since every beer brand talks about exceptional taste and smoothness, most of the spot feels like it could be for anything. In fact, the liquid and the rock music make it feel more like a generic Bud ad, until we see the logo. And the bubbles don’t look any smaller to me. The website is a little better in that it tells us the beer’s already won a gold medal at the 2010 Canadian Brewing Awards, and the Facebook page, while hardly that creative, already has over 1,000  fans and the brand is posting well and regularly. I’d like to see a social media manager answer questions posted on the wall directly though.
Smith: The beer looks very appealing, but it looks like any other lager. The Black Keys track is cool, but isn’t exactly left of centre for a beer ad. As for the print, I think they missed an opportunity to explain the process – if Molson is trying to target open-minded, stylish people, then why not tell a story or appeal to them with sophisticated humour? Overall, the campaign is very safe and standard.

advertiser Molson; new packaging Spring Design NY; agency BBDO; media Saint-Jacques Vallée MEC; web and social Proximity