Matt Johnston – VP, Sales and Marketing
Chris Waldock – Director, Sales and Marketing
Deanna Kaminskyj – Senior Brand Manager
Chris Kreutzer – Assistant Brand Manager
Judy John – CEO, Chief Creative Officer
Lisa Greenberg – VP, Creative Director
David Buckspan – Group Account Director
Natasha Dagenais – Account Director
Rebecca Simon – Account Executive
Anthony Chelvanathan – Creative Group Head, Art Director
Steve Persico – Creative Group Head, Writer
Paul Giannetta – Creative Group Head, Art Director
Sean Barlow – Creative Group Head, Writer
Starcom MediaVest Group
Wills & Co Media Strategies Inc
Crossover Notes: All winning cases contain lessons that cross over from one case to another. David Rutherford has been identifying these as Crossover Notes since CASSIES 1997. The full set for CASSIES 2012 can be downloaded from the Case Library section at www.cassies.ca
Crossover Note 2. Brand Truths.
Crossover Note 3. Core Equity versus Price & Promotion.
Crossover Note 10. Conventional Wisdom—should it be challenged?
To see creative, click on the links that are embedded in the case.
|Business Results Period (Consecutive Months):||April 2008 – May 2011|
|Start of Advertising/Communication Effort: ||April 2008 |
|Base Period as a Benchmark: ||Calendar 2007|
“We Don’t Have Enough Money To Compete With The Big Guys. Do We?”
James Ready competes in Ontario’s discount beer segment. The segment is massive, accounting for 40% of total beer sales, but is incredibly fragmented with over 35 brands vying for their drop in the pitcher. But the payoff can be worth it: with category sales of more than $2.5 billion every year, Ontario is among the most lucrative beer markets in the world, with a level of competitive intensity to match.
How does a small brand with tiny budgets survive in a market of huge players with more money and bigger budgets? It’s a question the people at James Ready Brewing Company ask themselves every day.
James Ready has had to fight case-by-case and shelf-by-shelf for every possible share point since it launched four years ago. It wasn’t getting any easier. The big players were getting bigger. Tastes were changing, with spirits gaining ground in what were classic beer occasions. And just when the brand was achieving traction on its tiny budget, legislative changes affected the price of beer and one of the brand’s key claims.
And yet, despite all these challenges, James Ready’s share and sales volume continues to flourish every year over the past four years.
This case will demonstrate how a compelling brand purpose, a sharp focus on a core fan base, and highly innovative fan engagement has helped James Ready pour out consistently superior results over a long period of time, despite a marketing budget dwarfed by the major players.
James Ready presents a pure advertising success story. The only variable at work was the creative and how the brand engaged with fans.
- Grow James Ready Ontario net sales volume (in hectolitres) year over year
- Grow James Ready Ontario market share year over year
$100,000 - $200,000
Although younger drinkers love the taste of premium beers, they’re too expensive to be their volume brand. Discount beers, by contrast, have the price young drinkers want, but not the fun that they thirst for in their main brand. James Ready’s opportunity was to address this unmet need for a fun, social brand and to engage its drinkers in a way that was uncommon in the category. [Crossover Note 10]
James Ready tapped into an underlying human truth: the fun and satisfaction of being part of something bigger than any one person. [Crossover Note 2] James Ready could be the beer brand that helped beer drinkers achieve that sense of participation.
The brand appealed directly to drinkers by involving them in a cause they could get behind: to help keep JR a ‘buck-a-beer’. This approach worked and the brand gained momentum. But in 2010, when the price of all discount beers in Ontario was legislated to increase, the brand would have to redefine the campaign that had brought JR so far -- Help Keep Our Beer a Buck. Even though fans had done everything they could to keep the price of JR a buck, now, the price of their favourite beer was increasing. This was a pivotal test of the strategy and creative. How could the brand continue to be the Beer of the People when it was no longer a buck?
Rather than just be about keeping the price of James Ready low, we sought to take on a higher brand purpose: to be the brand that championed helping our fans save money. But we wouldn’t just say it – we would get people involved in it. [Crossover Note 3]
By encouraging our core base of 19-24 drinkers to participate in the cause and actively co-create with the brand, we could help build ownership in a way that was uncommon in the category.
When you engage with James Ready, whether at one of our events, on Facebook, or even at a buddy’s house reading aloud every cap you crack open, you are incited to interact with the brand differently. Everything we do provokes conversation about how beer brands have traditionally marketed themselves, and creates a feeling of authenticity about JR that separates it from the pack.
We gave ourselves a high standard: Each billboard, event or touch-point had to act as proof that James Ready behaves differently. It had to highlight a new twist on what was traditionally done. It had to offer unique experiences that continued to delight its fans. And above all, to reinforce that James Ready was doing everything possible to fulfil its purpose of helping you save money.
- Outdoor Billboards
- Direct Mail
- In Case Newsletters
- Event Marketing
The people at James Ready do everything they can to keep their great tasting beer affordable. But they can’t do it alone. They need the help of their drinkers and need to make their fans part of the brand. In doing this, JR’s drinkers would own the brand, and make the brand the one they’d want to root for, regardless of price.
In ways unlike any other beer brand, James Ready would ask fans to participate and actively co-create with their brand. Every beer drinker who became part of the cause in keeping costs down would in turn become a zealot for the brand, helping drive engagement and, of course, volume.
From this line of thinking, a long-running series of highly unconventional participation ideas was born.
April 2008. The Start of Something Awesome.
Packaging: We started with new caps and labels. Underneath each cap and label drinkers would discover one of over 600 surprise messages. Not only did they generate buzz, they also told fans how to help keep the beer a buck. This became such a hit that James Ready refreshed the messages and themes twice a year, a custom that continues four years later.
Share our Billboard: James Ready exists to do everything it can to help keep its beer affordable, even if that means sharing a billboard with James Ready fans. Space was intentionally left blank for people to fill with whatever they wanted. Pictures and messages soon poured in. Fan messages, mischief and mayhem were posted with the billboard matched to the exact city, town, road route or block they lived on. And in turn, fans became local celebrities while helping James Ready keep their tasty beer a buck.
The look and tone of the campaign was important: we wanted a homemade feeling, nothing fancy. After all, James Ready does everything it can to help keep its beer affordable.
Website: Readyforless.ca launched April 1. The site was built using a little imagination and the stuff found in the case (labels, cardboard, caps, bottles, etc.). The mission of the site was to show people how to make their own beer coasters, hats, t-shirts, etc. and to encourage James Ready drinkers to show their support for keeping the beer affordable. The conversation didn’t end there. Every person who submitted a message or picture on the website received a hand-written thank you letter from the crew at the Brewery.
April 2009. Going Beyond What Others Have Ever Done.
Billboard Coupons: Don’t worry Ontario. James Ready knows times are tough: inflation up, wages flat, two-buck coffees, and there’s still those monthly bills. So James Ready jumped in to help its drinkers save cash. The idea: create targeted billboards that would help people save $26.10 --- the cost of a JR 2-4. The first step was to partner with local businesses in one of Ontario’s hardest hit cities: Windsor. Then JR mashed together billboards and coupons to invent a never before media first: billboard coupons. No clipping required! Fans found direct discounts like 15% off Italian sausage, two holes pierced for the price of one, and 10% off pots.
All people had to do was take a picture of the billboard coupon on their phone, present it to the local business and redeem. A low-cost idea, delivered with low-cost execution that fit the brand.
University Bar-Ter Night: In October 2009, we created bartering events at campus pubs where students could trade in JR caps for necessities often sacrificed for beer: boxers, cereal, deodorant and light bulbs. Consumers simply had to collect James Ready caps by purchasing JR on the night of the event. The more caps students collected, the more stuff they could barter for. Games were set up to give students more opportunity to increase their cache of caps. The look and tone of the event stayed true to the conviction and thrift of the brand: James Ready does everything it can to help its fans save money.
Drinkers Wanted Board Game: JR fans know nothing beats a good drinking game at home with friends, and we wanted to help with the first ever JR board game. The board was printed on the back of the in-case newsletter, which highlighted a whole whack of pictures, stories and other fun stuff our fans had sent us over the past three years. All you needed to play was a JR 2-4. The caps found on the bottles were not only your game pieces but also instructed players about the ins and outs of the game.
January 2010: Taking Co-Creation to a Whole New Level.
How Can JR Help You? For the past two years, armies of loyal drinkers helped keep James Ready affordable. JR wanted to show their gratitude by asking fans, “How can JR help you?” We launched with radio ads that made listeners two offers; airtime in a radio spot to use as they see fit, and the chance to get help from the Brewery wherever they need it.
From an immense pool of pleas for help, James Ready fulfilled the big wishes of five lucky fans. One JR drinker got a flight home to Newfoundland to visit his mom while another was flown to BC for a reunion. One fan was given a Halloween costume “to become James Ready”. Another mom received a guitar and amplifier to give to her son for his birthday. Plus we threw in a few bonus wishes along the way.
Cory and Dean Get Married: The final request was the most outrageous one: to help a happy couple get hitched. To help the couple save money, JR assumed the role of wedding planner, florist, printer, and even caterer. We designed and executed everything from the centerpieces to the groom’s cufflinks to the DJ’s set list. And on May 1 2010, over 100 cheerful and beer-chugging guests enjoyed the bliss of wedlock, and a bar stocked with ice cold JR. This highly unconventional idea rippled through the James Ready fan base.
Beer Store Parking Lot Billboards: Next, JR wanted to help people that were hit hardest by the recession. So, in spring 2010, James Ready bought billboards in selected towns and placed the boards in the parking lots of Beer Stores. Then we offered free haircuts and free portraits so people could save money and buy James Ready beer. The events were held right under the billboards.
369-Day Cap Calendar: As part of an in-case promotion starting April 2010, JR gave away a 369-day calendar found inside each 2-4. Drinkers had to collect all 369 unique beer caps that went with each day and stick them on the calendar. Fans loved sharing their completed and semi-completed calendars on Facebook, even pleading with other fans to trade doubles for their missing days. Without any help, fans created their own trading post.
February 2011. Surprises For Everyone.
Pop-up Billboards: We created the first ever mobile Pop-up billboard that went to places that our drinkers frequent, and offered deals on things they need. Because the Pop-ups were meant to be random, we never told people where they would show up next. JR’s Facebook page let people know the exact location of each billboard and details about the limited time discounts.
Blank Cap Recall: After a printing screw-up left millions of JR Beer Caps blank, fans immediately asked “WTF?” To make amends, JR launched the Blank Cap Recall. Any drinker who received a blank cap on their beer could mail it back to James Ready Brewery and in return JR would give them 'something' from the brewery as compensation, like a tiny plastic dinosaur. After all, anything expensive was out of the question. Thousands of drinkers participated, and JR’s irreverent response helped cement their love of the brand.
We needed to be highly targeted and be where we could most affect the sale. We needed to be provocative in how we engaged our drinkers. And finally, we needed the look and feel of our media choices to reinforce JR’s “keeping prices low” DNA. Creating a perception that we were keeping advertising costs to a minimum would add authenticity to JR’s purpose.
Focus on location was a key part of the media strategy. Beer drinkers tend to have tunnel vision when ordering their beer. When they approach the counter, they’re already in ‘buy’ mode and go directly to their normal purchase. JR had to interrupt that pattern.
Billboards allowed James Ready to target high-volume markets efficiently by posting them right outside local Beer Stores.
Packaging, bottles and caps helped spread the word.
Campus pubs allowed JR to target high-volume markets at the epicentre of university social life.
In-case newsletters helped create a sense of being in the JR club. Facebook gave JR fans direct ways to interact with other like-minded fans, and helped communicate JR’s ongoing programs. And Twitter projected an irreverent voice in communicating brand news.
Against 2007 as a base, James Ready’s sales in hectolitres grew 245% by 2011 (Footnote 1).
James Ready’s market share grew from a 0.39% in 2007 to 1.39% in 2011, translating into a 256% increase over that period. That share level equates to more than $30 million in sales annually (Footnote 2).
Finally, JR succeeded in taking share from the leading brands in the discount segment, Carling and Lakeport. Over the last three years their market share has steadily fallen while JR’s continues to rise. From 2009 to 2011, while James Ready share increased by 34%, Carling market share fell by -14% and Lakeport share fell by -22% (Footnote 3).
Industry response to the Help us, Help you campaign has been particularly noteworthy:
• The campaign was the seventh most awarded in the world in 2009 according to Creativity Awards Report
• James Ready won two Gold Cassies in 2009 for Off to a Good Start and Small Budget
• In 2011, James Ready has achieved numerous international awards including D&AD, The One Show, The Clios and The Effies
Perhaps most satisfying of all are what JR’s fans themselves have said. We've received thousands of stories, pictures and videos from fans about their love of JR. When a person loves a brand so much they get it tattooed on their body you know you’re doing something right. But this unsolicited email sums it up best:
“Hey, my name’s Mitch, and tonight, James Ready provided me with the moment of a lifetime. I was at a friend’s birthday party tonight, and we were all tossing back a few beers. Now, I just got a mullet a week ago for my band’s tour. Everyone was loving the mullet, even though it’s probably the dirtiest thing in the area. Anyway, I was just getting settled in at my buddies place. So I open up my first brew, and take a look at the cap. I lose my cool, when I see that the cap said “Mullet Day”. The whole room lost their $#@! when I read the cap aloud. It was unreal. What are the chances that this cap is the cap of the first beer that i opened? Out of all of the cases in the beer store? It was just THE most ironic thing possible…I just had to share this epic story with you...JR rocks my life, and out of all the beers, i would choose a James over any beer in the world :)”
This is a pure advertising success story, with no other marketing factor varying. Price versus competitors remained constant. Distribution was constant. POS Display was constant. Budget remained constant --- and very low. The only variable was the creative work and how JR engaged with its fans.
Annual marketing spend has been less than $300,000 per year, and this level has been consistent for the past three years.
James Ready has maintained price parity within its segment since it was first launched, and has never used any limited time pricing incentive.
Sales of JR are completely driven by the Beer Store, since discount beers are not sold in licenced venues. Beer Store distribution was consistent over the past four years.
Unusual Promotional Activity:
Unlike most other beer brands, James Ready does not pay for extra promotional material or give-aways at the retail level. No posters, no gift-in-case promotions, no limited-time-offers.
Other Potential Causes:
James Ready wasn’t riding on a segment trend. Total share of the discount segment held flat over the past three years. And the two biggest brands in the segment, Carling Lager and Lakeport Pilsner, lost share at the time that James Ready was growing.