Molson refreshes its labels under new masterbrand approach

The redesign aims to bring renewed focus to the brewer's legacy and "premiumize" the category to compete with craft beer.


Canada’s oldest brewer has unveiled a fresh look for several of its mass labels as it looks to re-energize the segment amid slumping beer sales nationwide and shifting consumer preferences for heavier craft brews.

Under a new masterbrand approach, Molson Coors Canada has begun rolling out changes to its flagship Molson Canadian label. That will be followed by a refresh of Molson Export (one of its biggest brands in Quebec) and Molson Dry. By the end of the year, the goal is to bring all Molson trademark brands within the new visual identity, including Molson 67 and Molson Cold Shots.

The refresh aims to bring renewed focus to the company’s founding narrative and the broader societal contributions of its founder, John Molson, who in addition to opening the country’s first brewery, helped found the Bank of Montreal and the Montreal General Hospital.

Until now, the majority of Molson-branded products have not shared a common narrative, says Joy Ghosh, senior director of marketing at Molson Coors Canada, because they were built at the trademark level. “We haven’t had the chance to create and establish a masterbrand and create a common equity that would help build the brand across a portfolio.”

Molson-1The new labels, created by London, U.K.-based design firm BrandOpus (with input from the Molson family), aim to restore equity in the Molson name through common design elements, including a John Molson signature pulled from the company’s historical archives and an hexagon clock that was part of the company’s corporate logo before its merger with Coors in 2005. At the same time, Ghosh says, the labels maintain some elements of familiarity for the individual sub-brands, such as the iconic ship on the Molson Export label.

“More than ever, consumers are expecting a lot from a brand. They want to know the face, the place, the origins and all the things that a brand represents,” Ghosh says. “It felt like a good opportunity to address those consumer needs, while helping bring some new energy to Molson trademark.”

In support of the redesign, a campaign is expected to launch in February called “History Is In Your Hands” that will draw further attention to the company’s 233-year history and legacy. But Gosh says it’s “not just about a history lesson.”

“We want to show we’re still continuing to innovate, we’re still continuing to grow as a company, and we’re still investing in the community in Canada.”


Other brewers have recently refreshed their branding. Moosehead redesigned its packaging last spring to bring greater consistency across its four product lines and to speak to millennial consumers, while Mill St. Brewery refreshed its look to reflect that all of its core labels are certified organic. Meanwhile, Toronto craft brewer Steam Whistle Brewing recently added nutritional info and an ingredient list to its design in a bid to be more transparent.

In an interview with strategy last year, Molson CMO Martin Coyle said that craft beers – which only accounts for around 6% of the market, but whose sales have risen tenfold since 2008 – will be key to driving growth in beer, which has been on a category-wide decline for several years.

In response to those trends, Molson Coors is looking to “energize” its mass labels as part of three-part corporate strategy that includes building more global brands and “premiumizing” the category by growing its above premium and craft offering.

Ghosh says the packaging refresh and campaign are phase one of a larger effort that will see Molson evolve its brand building strategy from “shouting from a rooftop to one that’s really about how do we show action in the community, and how do we show up as a brand that’s really representing all Canadians, coast-to-coast.”