Steam Whistle drafts Google to clinch the title of Canada’s premium beer

As its portfolio grows beyond the "one thing it does really well," the brewer is looking to show that its focus on quality hasn't changed.
Hey Google

Steam Whistle has long claimed to be “Canada’s premium beer,” and now it’s getting help from Google to back up that claim.

New ads are imploring Canadians to pose the question “what is Canada’s premium beer?” to their smart assistant or the search engine, confident that Steam Whistle shows up as the top result. That top result also happens to send people to the brand’s website, where it explains that its “exceptional quality” comes from spring water, its green bottle that can be reused three times longer and its sophisticated quality assurance program, all of which have been consistent for over two decades.

According to Tim McLaughlin, VP of marketing at Steam Whistle, getting Canadians to consider the question of “what is Canada’s premium beer” will make Steam Whistle’s portfolio a part of the consumer’s consideration set the next time they’re looking for a premium beer.

He adds that Steam Whistle is uniquely positioned to capture share from larger premium brands. Besides the quality and the “iconic” green bottle that emulates the style of a premium European import beer, it has the Canadian bona fides of being made locally, which also helps it stay priced lower than other premium brands like Stella Artois and Heineken.

Though the pandemic has had a devastating effect on beer sales on-premise, domestic beer sales at retail in Canada are only down 0.9% year-over-year as of August, with consumers looking for slightly more affordable options.

The brand’s positioning of “Canada’s premium beer” is not a recent pursuit. According to Greg Taylor, co-founder and CEO, there was a period in the late 90s where sales for craft beer were flat, as premium import beers like Stella Artois and Heineken had entered the Canadian market, leaving the future for craft beer uncertain. Taylor and his co-founders thought this presented an opportunity to seize the mantle of a made-in-Canada premium beer.

That’s an opportunity that still exists today, as there aren’t many national domestic brands that are established in the premium space and most craft brands are associated with regional brewers.

“We’ve changed our focus from saying that we want to become Canada’s most respected premium beer, to the fact that we are there already,” Taylor says. “We’re going to continue to move in that direction with our craft credentials and become known across the country, without question, as the beer that Canadians can all be proud of.”

It’s also a change from its “Do One Thing Really, Really Well” motto, communicated through efforts that gave customers an inside look at how Steam Whistle focuses on quality, process and ingredients in its brewery. But the “quality over variety” approach needed to be tweaked slightly as Steam Whistle expanded outside of its signature pilsner: in 2019, it launched a pale ale, only its second variety in its twenty-year-plus history, with a lager added earlier this year.

Steam Whistle created the campaign and handled the social media buy in-house, with RCS Media Solutions handling the OOH buy and iStorm New Media handling the digital buy.