Steam Whistle pivots with on-pack scavenger hunt

From Shopper Marketing Report: Due to the pandemic, the brand converted the program from being experiential to packaging led.


Steam Whistle is launching a special edition scavenger pack and is unveiling the latest incarnation of its bottle opener, shaped like a canoe paddle to honour its 20-year Algonquin Park foundational story.

The 20th anniversary pack is in market throughout July and August, depending on sales, and consumers are being asked to find 20 icons hidden in packs, with Steam Whistle telling the story and meaning of each on a dedicated site. For example, the pack features a tiny image of the brand’s 1950s beer delivery trucks which it uses to tour across Canada, as well as a bicycle to commemorate its support for the cycling community with its bike repair stations across the country.

“On the box, we took the opportunity to highlight milestones and a create scavenger hunt to increase engagement,” according to Tim McLaughlin, Steam Whistle’s director of marketing, who tells strategy that the brand was going to incorporate the scavenger hunt idea into its Roundhouse brewery tour experience, but leaned into the actual packaging itself, as well as a more robust digital experience because of COVID.

The pack is available nationally in all markets, and there is merchandising support on rollers in the Beer Store, as well as end-cap support at the LCBO.

To promote the pack more broadly, Steam Whistle is doing what McLaughlin calls a “significant” campaign in partnership with Google, which includes search display and pre-roll. The brand is also promoting the pack and anniversary in Flipp’s digital flyer app to get the SKU in front of customers before they visit stores.


McLaughlin says craft brewing is a volatile and highly competitive industry, so 20 years is a significant milestone and one that the brand wanted to call out. It decided to highlight the foundational story about the brand’s genesis on a canoe trip in Algonquin with another bottle opener, now in its 15th iteration, shaped like a canoe paddle. The opener also has “3FG” (for “three fired guys”) etched into it, as a nod to when Steam Whistle’s founders Greg Taylor, Cam Heaps and Greg Cromwell found themselves jobless after the breweries they were working for were bought out and closed down.

“This is an opportunity to add value for beer drinkers, as a call to action for trial, but also a loyalty program, [because] people who have supported us anticipate the opener promotion,” he says. “There’s actually a Facebook group who collect [openers] to get a full set.”

For the brand, merchandising is important, he says, citing the Steam Whistle lunch box as an example of how the brewer has created innovative gift packs to drive purchases. Last year, he says, it created a cooler backpack that’s sold in the LCBO, and over Christmas, it sold a wall-mounted can-crusher that saw good results.

“We try to make innovative items, not a cooler anyone can slap their logo on, but something that is a unique opportunity to experience the brand,” McLaughlin says.