Coors Light goes beyond parties and Frisbee golf

A colour-changing can is at the core of the beer brand's plans for more inclusive summer marketing.

This article appears in the Summer 2017 issue of strategy.

Coors Light has spent its last two summers trying to recruit millennials with marketing like the “Summer Games” contest that sent hundreds of “athletes” to a giant outdoor party to compete in elaborate Frisbee golf courses and “volley-pong.” Chris Waldock, senior director of marketing at Molson Coors, says in doing so, it was neglecting its slightly older core customer.

If you’re the beer of summer, instead of just rowdy parties for young people, you’re also speaking to drinkers who enjoy a Coors Light at the cottage or during a backyard BBQ, or to millennials who are more interested in going to one of the music festivals the brand is sponsoring with a handful of close friends.

So Coors Light has suspended the “Summer Games” program this year, and is making its summer plans more inclusive.

For more than a decade, the brand has released “cold certified” cans that change colour when they reach the ideal drinking temperature. This year, it added a “summer certified” twist, with sunlight-triggered geometric designs lighting up in yellow and orange hues.

It might seem like a simple promotion, but it marks an evolution for how the brand is approaching its marketing this summer, a key season for the beer category. The cans continue to play off the brand equity Coors Light has built in “cold” and easy-drinking refreshment that has made it a draw as the weather heats up. But adding a symbol of the joy of summer is an attempt to also connect on the emotional side.

“We’re bringing something new to the table to reinforce what we’ve always been in the minds of consumers,” Waldock says. “Canadians long for those sunny days, but if you don’t go out there and get them, you’ll have missed out on some of the best and most memorable moments.”

Other brands have also made new efforts to focus on authentic moments. Bud Light launched the Living Rooms program in May, inviting people to what was positioned less around partying and more on intimate, celebrity-curated VIP events around passions like sports, music and games.

Coors Light also plans to bring this approach to life through the way it activates its sponsorship of the Toronto Raptors, and music and winter sports fest Snowbombing.

“Emotionally, [consumers are] looking for occasions where they are connecting with their inner circle, because that’s where you are your authentic self and will be the most memorable,” Waldock says. “It feels like a richer emotional territory we haven’t really ventured into.”