Canadians drink a lot of Corona. It’s the best selling premium imported beer in the country. It commands a 26% share of its category, in which Heineken is number two and Miller Genuine Draft number three. Last year, we bought a whopping 8 million cases of the beverage.
Brewed in Mexico by Grupo Modelo, the brand has clearly been a huge success in Canada. I recently spoke with Robert Armstrong, the president and CEO of Modelo Molson Imports, which markets and distributes Corona Extra and Corona Light in Canada, about how he grew the brand from just 8,000 cases in 1986.
Armstrong attributes much of the brand’s success to its target. Unlike many beers that go after 19-24 year-old guys, Corona markets to slightly older, well-educated males andfemales with decent incomes. In fact, purchasers of the brand are split 50/50 between men and women. Wooing the fairer sex makes sense. As Armstrong points out, total beer consumption among females is greater than consumption among 19-24 year-old males.
The consumption of Corona in Canada, of course, has a lot to due with its advertising. While the brand’s creative executions have changed over the years, Corona has stayed true to its positioning of “refreshing, memorable moments,” helping to firmly establish its identity among hundreds of competitors. “If you look at a Corona commercial we did in 1986, it’s not significantly different from the ones we did in 2006,” Armstrong says. (Here’s a link to Corona’s latest campaign dubbed The Promise.)
Aside from keeping Corona’s message consistent, Armstrong says switching to a small agency from a major one about 10 years ago was also a key to the brand’s success. “It was hard to get the attention we wanted from a larger agency, because at that time our business wasn’t that significant,” Armstrong recalls. “We wanted to be a big fish in a small pond,” he adds.
The Marketing Channel, Corona’s current agency, has helped make drinking the beer into an experience, another crucial factor in the brand’s rise. Yet the ad shop nor Armstrong can take credit for one vital aspect of the brand: the practice of slipping a lime wedge inside the bottle. Armstrong says rumours abound on its origins but believes it was started by bartenders in California.
While Armstrong doesn’t deserve kudos for the lime wedge, he gets props for emphasizing relationships with media partners. That’s allowed him to understand exactly where and how his brand’s media dollarsby far the most significant expense in any campaignare being spent, and to negotiate executions like the recent gatefold ads in national newspapers for The Promise.
Most beer brands can only hope to achieve Corona’s level of success. But Armstrong says he isn’t finished growing the brand. There are opportunities to broaden Corona’s drinking occasions, such as getting more people to pair the beer with food, he says. Armstrong says he also wants to maintain Corona’s spot as the market leader in its category, a distinction it grabbed from Heineken in 1992. If Armstrong can pull that off in the upcoming years, that’ll be an accomplishment most marketer would drink to.