Les Brasseurs du Nord – Boréale
Creative Directors, Design: Claude Auchu, David Kessous
Partner, Chief Operating Officer and Executive Creative Director: Marc Fortin
Vice-President, Creative Director: François Sauvé
Art Directors: Patrick Rochon, François Sauvé, Frédéric Tremblay, Éric Bouchard, Thibault Gehard
Copywriters: Alexis Cadieux, Philippe Coulombe
Graphic Designers: Marie-Pier Gilbert, Sophie Valentine, Claude Auchu, David Kessous
Strategic Planner: Marc-André Fafard
Vice-President, Client Services: Julie Pilon
Account Director: Thalie Poulin
Group Director, Design: Vanessa Dicaire
Account Executives: Antoine Levasseur, Chloé Gascon
Account Coordinator: Gabrielle Fortin-Larose
Project Director: Claudia Riverin
Print Producer: Frédéric Graf
Graphic Production and Retouching: Manon Rémillard, Joanie Évrard, Frédéric St-Denis
Production Manager: Frédéric Graf
Agency Producers: Mélanie Bazinet, Isabelle Fonta
Director: Louis-Philippe Eno
Directors of Photography (Design): Roger Proulx, Étienne Proulx
Director of Photography (Advertising): Marc Simpson
Production Company: Gorditos – Véronique Poulin
Post-production Company: Mels
Sound and Engineering: BLVD
lg2 Design Integration: Akufen
|Business Results Period (Consecutive Months):||• October 2016–July 2017|
|Start of Advertising/Communication Effort: ||• October 2016 |
|Base Period as a Benchmark: ||• October 2015–July 2016|
|Geographic Area: ||• Province of Quebec|
|Budget for this effort: ||$200,000 - $500,000|
Generating growth in a declining industry in never easy. Doing it with a budget that’s a fraction of the competition’s is even tougher. But doing it for a brand that’s 30 years old, dusty, inactive for years and not even seen as an option for consumers demands a special level of effort. And yet that’s what Boréale, the Quebec microbrewery founded in 1988, has succeeded in doing. The bear has truly awoken from hibernation.
The birth of the bear
Founded in 1988 in the North of Quebec, Boréale is a pioneer in the Quebec microbrewery movement. It was the first to launch a red ale on the market, and the company has long sought to democratize specialty beers for Quebec beer drinkers. The fact that it was truly something different allowed the brand to quickly capture the hearts of people here who were then accustomed to the mass-produced offerings of the large brewers.
The glory years
Boréale quickly became one of the province’s most important microbreweries. Distributed all over the province in grocery stores and corner stores, Boréale’s product line grew to include blonde, stout, honey ale, wheat ale, IPA, etc. The brand’s dedication to brewing high-quality, natural beers, coupled with its northern Quebec imagery and the fact that it was among the very few alternatives to the established brewers, made for rapid success during the 90s—this without having to invest in marketing.
The bear fell asleep
After years of continued growth, the recent situation was alarming. Boréale isn’t what it used to be in terms of leadership and innovation, and is no longer able to seduce beer drinkers. A number of reasons can explain this stagnation.
1. The boom in microbreweries
In the past 10 years, Quebec has seen a 345% increase in the number of microbreweries. There are now more than 170, in all parts of the province. Consequently, the market share held by microbreweries has now doubled to nearly 10%. Boréale, a brand that had once stood practically alone in the niche, is now being challenged in every direction.
2. A forgotten brand
The consumers who experienced the pinnacle of Boréale’s success are now older, and the Millennials, who consume the most beer, never lived through its glory days. To them, Boréale is an old, outmoded brand. Moreover, because the brand hadn’t invested in marketing for years, it hadn’t even given itself a chance to reverse the trend and seek out new clientele. As a result, the brand was ignored by beer drinkers, especially the beer geeks, who are among the most discerning. Boréale’s bad reputation went so far as to discourage bar and brew-pub owners from carrying it, for fear of losing credibility with their loyal clientele.
3. Stuck in the middle
Too big to be a microbrewery, too small to be a large brewer, Boréale was stuck in the middle of the two market segments, which affected its performance and brand equity. Moreover, the concept of “microbrewery” remains unclear in the minds of many. There is a tendency towards creating “fake authenticity,” whereby the major brewers borrow the codes and visual cues from microbreweries, and this tends to render the overall idea of microbrewing subjective and open to interpretation. And yet, when you consider the volume of beer brewed by Boréale, it remains a true microbrewery.
The result: Boréale saw its sales shrink by 2% last year, confirming the trend. So it was high time to rethink the brand from the ground up and to give it a little lustre.
a. Conceive a new brand positioning in order to make Boréale an inspiring and relevant brand.
b. Increase Boréale brand awareness by 3%.
a. Rejuvenate the consumer base by increasing relevance and consideration among 18-to-34-year-olds.
b. Stimulate purchase intentions among 18-to-34-year-olds.
a. Inject some modernism into the brand’s DNA in order to improve the perception among microbrew drinkers.
a. Increase Boréale sales in Quebec by 2%.
In order to measure its progress, Boréale used a research firm to measure the change in brand awareness and perception with Quebecers. As for sales figures, the microbrewery was able to supply data at the end of each month.
Despite the need to evolve Boréale, it was crucial to remain loyal to the brand’s roots and DNA in order to remain authentic and relevant to its present day drinkers. A series of individual interviews with Boréale’s founders, key employees and beer drinkers allowed us to build a strategy that was 1) legitimate for the brand, 2) relevant to consumers and 3) steeped in current culture.
1- Being legitimate for the brand
Boréale is a microbrewery that’s always been ahead of its time. In 1988, the founders had a clear vision for the brand: to brew beers without pretension, made exclusively from natural ingredients. The brand name and symbol are incarnations of these convictions. A name, Boréale, which evokes nature and wide-open spaces. A symbol, the polar bear, which represents the enormity and freedom of Quebec’s north while reflecting the power and independence of the brand.
This respect for nature would guide many decisions made over the years:
- Being the first to offer a completely natural beer
- Being the first to provide No. 5 recyclable plastic glasses to its customers and partners
- Being the first to convert its fleet of vehicles to hybrids
- Creating a brewery that respected nature by using:
- Geothermic energy
- Reusable energy
- Recycling of garbage and residue
- Respect for its environment
- Using cases made with recycled and recyclable cardboard and labels that respect the environment
Basically, Boréale was inspired by nature. It was crucial to respect this heritage, but at the same time to adapt this truth to a lifestyle that touched the hearts and minds of the target.
2- Being relevant to consumers
One thing that hasn’t changed since the creation of Boréale is the taste for beer demonstrated by men 18-34 years old. This group drinks more beer than any other, both in terms of frequency and quantity. However, their beer-drinking behaviour has changed considerably over the years. The age group can now be further divided into three distinct groups.
- Beer geeks: Numbering roughly 90,000 Quebec beer aficionados, beer geeks are the most discerning drinkers. They’re interested in the brewing process and in the story behind the microbrewer and product. They are the reference and influencer for their entourage. For beer geeks, the more obscure the microbrewery, the better.
- Explorers: Comprising 1.2 million beer drinkers, explorers are looking for something new. Lacking brand loyalty, discovering new tastes and products brings them the greatest pleasure. Although less liable to expand their beer knowledge, they make up the group with the strongest growth.
- Followers: This is the largest group, numbering some 2.6 million drinker. They are only now discovering the world of microbrewing and have some negative impressions about the segment, as well as an aversion to risk. They tend to drink beer from the big brewers and are liable to try the most accessible of the microbrewery products.
Despite these notable differences in behaviour, the three target groups agree about one thing: Boréale is a functional brand, without emotion or aspiration. Sure, it’s a brand that’s accessible, but it doesn’t connect with them emotionally, nor do they identify with it. And given the fact that the alcohol milieu is an industry of dreams, aspirations, escapism and indulgence, Boréale needed to add a narrative, cultural element to its positioning.
3- Being steeped in culture
Trends based on nature and the outdoors are increasingly important for many industries, especially with the Generation Y target. Outdoor products used to be extremely specialized and high-tech. We then saw the arrival of products for more conventional outdoor activities. Now we have mass-appeal products that borrow some of the lustre from the outdoor lifestyle and use it in sectors such as fashion, decoration, real estate and fitness.
This call of the wild allows Millennials to escape their frenetic, urban and connected lives. They are increasingly motivated to appreciate the freedom and restorative effects of nature. However, this is a luxury to which they aspire, not a reality they all know, making it that much more desirable to the target group.
However, it’s important to note that this generation does not see the outdoors and nature as some kind of extreme adventure, but more as an experience that begins the minute you step outside (the new outdoors starts at your front door). The concept of outdoors can move beyond the core camping and hiking categories into fields such as paddle sports, urban outdoor adventures and even going to the park for activities, without losing its roots.
Coupled with the Boréale DNA that’s based on nature, the brand can, in an authentic way, embody this lifestyle for consumers.
“Celebrate life naturally,” a nod to Boréale’s legacy, its authenticity, the call of the wild, the thirst for freedom and the rejection of the superficial, became the brand’s new positioning. It was time to wake up the bear that had been hibernating for way too long.
Three paths were selected to attain our objectives:
1- Brand identity
Freed from the main logo, the emblematic bear is enhanced and is at the heart of the new identity. Everything has been designed to attract consumers, to invite them to reconsider and rediscover Boréale products.
2- Product architecture
The product line was reworked to divide the beers into three large product families, each one aimed at one of the three consumer target groups and each with a different degree of attachment to the Boréale master brand. The whole line is unified by the presence of the bear, the brand’s emblem, in three different strategic ways.
- Classic Line (strong endorsement): Designed for the followers, the more mainstream drinkers, this line includes the most popular Boréale brews.
- Artisan Series (moderate endorsement): The Artisan Series has the explorer in mind, includes products that are more niche and unique, and is subtly endorsed by Boréale. The beers of the Artisan Series already existed, but were not strategically presented within the overall portfolio. The Artisan Series is a way of unifying them under a single theme that is both clear and flexible.
- Épisode program (minimal endorsement): A program of short-term, unexpected draft brews offered in a few select bars. Once the batch is finished, it’s on to the next episode. The objective of the Épisode program is to rebuild the brand’s credibility among beer geeks.
3- Mass communications
The new campaign features the Boréale bear in various situations in a simple, humorous way. One senses the brand’s return to its roots, as well as the present-day tendency of living simply, all tied together by the new Boréale signature: Free the bear in you.
By refreshing Boréale, respecting its assets and steeping the brand in a growing lifestyle trend, Generation Y would soon have a completely different perception of Boréale. Segmenting the portfolio and having different strategies for each of the three target groups made it easier and more efficient to reach all three. And finally, knowing that the beer geeks and explorers would act as influencers within their entourage, we anticipated a snowball effect, enhanced by the new branding and communications.
The launch year included two important periods
1- The launch: Fall 2016
The unveiling of the new Boréale was supported by
1) the introduction of new packaging, including POP advertising talking about the change, 2) web banners and videos on social media and TV during targeted shows about nature and the outdoors, and 3) a launch event for the Épisode program that included different influencers from the Quebec brewing industry. The idea behind this phase was to reconquer the ambassadors, without giving the impression of being a huge brewer.
2- The blitz: Spring 2017
The biggest investment came in spring 2017 with 1) new videos on social media, pre-roll and TV, and 2) a billboard flight in the greater Montreal area. The objective of this phase was to reach followers for the first time and to be top-of-mind for that all-important summer period.
To ensure continuity between the two periods, Facebook and Instagram were used to reach the right audience.
Boréale saw a considerable increase in awareness following the launch:
- Top-of-mind awareness (first mention) is now at 14%, compared to 6% the previous year. This gives it the highest score of any Quebec beer.
- Unassisted awareness is now at 20%, compared to 10% the previous year. This, too, is the highest score for a Quebec brand.
- Assisted awareness rose from 84% to 87% during the same period.
Other performance1 indicators are just as impressive. According to a survey done last June:
- 70% of respondents said the recent marketing efforts made the Boréale brand seem friendlier (81% among Millennials).
- 54% of respondents found that the marketing efforts improved their perception of Boréale (67% among Millennials).
- 44% of respondents said the marketing efforts incited them to purchase Boréale in the near future (62% among Millennials).
Since the launch (October 2016 to July 2017), Boréale sales have seen an increase of 12.5%, compared with a 2% decrease the previous year. This in a shrinking industry, since during the same period, beer sales in Quebec decreased by 3.09%, according to Brewstats.
According to data supplied by OMD, the media agency, the campaign garnered impressive results despite a media budget of barely $200,000.
- YouTube: 288,496 views (a delivery rate of 216%), at a cost per view of $0.05 ($0.10 planned)
- Facebook videos: 312,142 views (a delivery rate of 332%), at a cost per view of $0.02 ($0.07 planned)
Unfortunately, we are not able to divulge confidential financial information for Boréale. However, Boréale assures us that the value generated by the sales increase is substantially greater than the campaign investment. Moreover, the renewed strength of the brand got the attention of the SAQ (Quebec’s liquor board), who was looking for a Quebec partner to produce and distribute a beer. Following a pitch, Boréale was chosen and now distributes a product, the Polar Edition, exclusively at the SAQ.
The various marketing efforts directly influenced the positive results for Boréale. The preceding year’s 2% drop in sales, followed by a 12.5% increase following the campaign launch, is a good indicator. Media coverage was remarkable and went beyond specialized publications to reach a mainstream public. And the campaign itself was well-liked by consumers.
- A likeability score for the campaign of 64% among respondents (74% among Millennials).
- 75% of respondents said the messages stood out from other advertising (79% among Millennials).
- 37% of respondents said the messages spoke to them personally (52% among Millennials).
Campaign spend vs. history and competition:
By any measure, because of the unique nature of the Quebec market, it can be certain that no other factors affected the results.
Campaign spend vs. history and competition:
The total advertising spend was $200,000, which is relatively small compared to the competition.
Pre-existing Brand momentum:
Boréale sales shrank 2% in the year preceding the campaign.
Boréale respected its established promotional periods. And there was no change to pricing during the business results period. In fact, Boréale actually increased the price of Artisan Series products by a dollar.
Changes in Distribution/Availability:
There was no major growth regarding the distribution network. Boréale was already distributed in all the major grocery chains and corner stores in Quebec before the period covered. The only new thing was the Boréale SKU sold at the SAQ since spring 2017.
Unusual Promotional Activity:
With no other marketing activity or aggressive price promotion running at the time, the campaign and the rebrand are the keys to the success of Boréale. According to the Omnibus post-campaign study, the statements directly related to the messages conveyed by the campaign are evaluated more positively by respondents who were exposed to the campaign.
Any other factors:
The target’s core audience, 18-to-34-year-old men, who were directly impacted by the revamp, connected deeply with Boréale’s new positioning. Also, according to Boréale, it is the first time in years that sales went up for such a long period of time.