By Gemma Charles, marketingmagazine.co.uk, Thursday, 28 July 2011 12:00AM
A 'happy coincidence' is how Chris McDonough, the marketing director of Molson Coors, describes the fact that his Carling brand and its rival, Foster's, two of the UK's biggest-selling lagers, are extending their brands with premium offerings.
Last week, consumers may have noticed the latest tipple on their supermarket shelves, Foster's Gold, a 4.8% ABV premium bottled lager. In a month's time they will be greeted by Carling Chrome, also a 4.8% premium bottled lager. Given these similarities, the stage is set for an almighty battle.
Carrie Hindmarsh, managing director of M&C Saatchi, used to oversee the Foster's ad account, and believes this is a major development.
'There's been little innovation in the "session-lager" market since the Cold War. Extending into the premium end of the market makes sense in terms of portfolio management and driving margin,' she adds.
While the lagers may seem similar, the marketing strategies behind the launches are set to be quite different.
Heineken UK's Foster's plans to use its comedy platform to drive the Foster's Gold ads. Mark Given, the company's brands director, says that its Brad and Dan 'Aussie bloke' characters will feature, 'with a twist'.
The Foster's product is aimed at its present consumers who want to drink from bottles on some occasions, but are not comfortable with the taste of Continental bottled beers.
Outlining the insight behind the launch, Given says: 'The number of mixed-gender drinking occasions is increasing, so there's always a concern that cans look a bit cheap. Our drinkers want to convert to bottles and make an effort, but still be true to the brand that they usually drink.'
In contrast, Carling's launch is focused on bringing extra, more-discerning consumers to the brand, as part of a strategy to grow Carling over the next nine years from selling 1.3bn to 2bn pints a year.
McDonough is undaunted by the fact that the Chrome launch will have to follow that of the Foster's product.
'I'm a big believer that if there are two or three support initiatives to a category opportunity, it builds that category. It gives it visibility, credibility, critical mass of space and consumer share of mind,' he says.
Both brewers claim that the activity will give them the right in consumers' minds to stretch their brands into premium offerings.
Simon Davies, a former marketing director of Molson Coors, identifies two significant drivers behind the launches. They are the need to 'make your assets work harder', and the potential of a 'halo effect' for the master brands.
'But extending your brand is a difficult call to make,' he adds, citing the amount of time and money that goes into initiatives such as these.
Whether the Foster's and Carling teams like it or not, because of the similarity of the products and the timing of the launches, their products will initially be measured up against each other over the next year.
This article was first published on marketingmagazine.co.uk
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