Alexander Keith’s comes back home to Nova Scotia

To win back allegiance on its home turf, the brand is celebrating local grit.

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After going national in the late ‘90s, beer brand Alexander Keith’s has returned home to Nova Scotia to celebrate its 200th anniversary for its latest campaign, an attempt to regain its connection to consumers in the province.

“Celebrating Two Centuries” launched on July 8 – 200 years and a day after the actual Alexander Keith bought his brewery. To re-establish the connection between the brand and its home province, Keith’s has highlighted eight individuals from the province who, like the brand’s founder himself, show determination and a tendency to dream big. These individuals include rapper and producer Quake Matthews, Olympian Kimiko Willgress, designer and CEO Alex MacLean, weight loss instructor Jasmine Parent, builder Mike Burns, dance instructor Abady Alzahrani, nurse Katie Boudreau and lobster fisherman Peter Marshall.

“We’re really trying to draw some parallels to Alexander Keith himself, and not necessarily the brand and not necessarily the beer,” says Jim Gallant, Atlantic marketing manager for Labatt Breweries of Canada. “[The creative] starts off with Alexander Keith telling his story, but his words are reflective of each and every individual as the words flow.”

The campaign launched via paid social – most notably, on Facebook and Instagram, with some spend on YouTube. The creative was led by Dose Media. Its production partner on the campaign was The Northern (formerly Buoy Marketing and Production, which announced its rebranding earlier this month).

Keith’s is looking to stay rooted in a local market where other brands in the Labatt portfolio, such as Budweiser and Bud Light, are its biggest competitors (ranking one and two in Nova Scotia, respectively). When Keith’s came up with the concept for the campaign in January, the brand wanted to use its platform to celebrate Nova Scotians, their perseverance, ambition and aspirations – qualities locals can see in themselves but also resonate for consumers across a country where several beers identify as being more broadly “Canadian.”

In 1997, Labatt brought back the Oland Specialty Brewing Company name to run as a marketing and sales division, focused on Keith’s and Stella Artois. The specialty space was emerging at the time, but Labatt had aspirations of the brands becoming bigger – so it positioned Keith’s not as an exclusively Atlantic Canadian drink, but as a good ol’beer to indulge in.

Gallant describes Keith’s national expansion as a “success story,” but as a result, “some people have turned their back” on the brand.

“Keith’s was such a popular beer with such a great demand across the country,” Gallant says. “[But] I think people felt that they lost some ownership of the brand,” he adds. “The challenge is I don’t think we’ve ever addressed [expansion] and talked about it as a success story, rather than what some might refer to as a sellout. But this started in downtown Halifax 200 years ago, and it’s still here. It’s the same recipe, one of the oldest continuously brewed beers in North America. It’s all to be celebrated.”

Gallant notes that Keith’s had on-premise events and other plans for the brand’s 200th anniversary, but “everything got tossed out.” Now the brand has turned its sights back to bars, and plans to celebrate licensee and on-premise partners – many of which have been struggling through COVID-19 closures – with a showcase piece highlighting roughly seven bar and restaurant owners that have been supporting Alexander Keith’s, in the style of the new campaign. For the 225th birthday of the brand’s namesake on Oct. 5, plans are still being finalized, but Gallant says they will likely lean more on social content and streaming for the occasion.