“7 Principles to Bring Freshness to Your Brand”

A Conversation with Jennifer Davidson, Vice President of Marketing at Molson Coors Canada.

By Manoj Raheja

At SW+A, we strive to inspire our clients; but we often find ourselves inspired by them. “Conversations with Marketing Leaders” is all about paying it forward to our readers.  In this series, you’ll be exposed to fresh and forward thinking from a number of Marketing Leaders – each of whom                                                       we are proud to call our clients. We hope you enjoy it!

Are you a marketer working on a number one brand in your category?  Must be nice!  High growth rates; Steady increases in brand contribution; Big share gains? Competitors flattering you by copying your every move; the list goes on and on!  I bet you’ve got your feet up right now…maybe even throwing back an ice cold Coors Light (that’s called blogging product placement by the way☺).

Then again – if you work with Jennifer Davidson on Coors Light, the #1 beer brand in Canada, maybe you don’t have time to put your feet up.  Jen and her team have been on a unique mission as a category leader; A brave endeavor that we definitely applaud.  They’ve determined the time is now to bring “Freshness” to the brand, and while the job is not yet complete, there is much to reflect on and learn over the past 12 months.  In what we’re calling the first of our SW+A Speaker Series: Conversations with Marketing Leaders, Jen shares with us her 7 Principles to bringing Freshness to a brand, and even provides a candid, behind the scenes look at how she applied them.

  1. Change your vantage point

“In order to do something new you need a fresh perspective. In my case it was a move to Denver, Colorado in a global role where I worked on Coors Light expansion into international markets and led the Coors Light Global brand council. This gave me great perspective and allowed me to see the business in Canada and the Coors Light brand with objectivity. If a physical move is not in the cards then get a similar effect by stepping out of your day to day role as brand lead and ask others what they’d do if they were in your shoes. It’s a powerful question to ask; especially when you ask it to a diverse group of people.”

  1. Create a rallying cry, even before you know where you’re heading

“Marketing is not a black and white game. There is also no bell that rings when you have found the right answer. It demands that you and your team work with lots of ambiguity and create a clear vision with only 80% of the information. A rallying cry for what you want to achieve is critical in order to get everyone pointed in the same direction and believing it is possible. In large matrixed organizations this belief from marketers, sales, supply chain and your Executive Leadership team is critical. In our case on Coors Light we created the rallying cry to drive stronger growth on Coors Light a full 12-18 months before we had done any “real” work to support this ambition.”

  1. Stay the course: Fail fast and keep moving forward

“There will be lots of dead ends, trap doors and wrong turns along the way. Failing is part of the process so it’s important to work with pace so you can learn early. It’s inevitable that some hypotheses or a new campaign will not turn out the way you were expecting. Take the learning and keep moving forward – the path will become clearer as you go.”

  1. Park your title at the door

“While you might be the lead marketer on a brand or portfolio, you cannot refresh a brand on your own. You also can’t let titles and egos get in the way. I like to invite lots of people around the table especially at the beginning. There are many people who are not working directly on the brand who still have tremendous insight into your brand. You have to be humble and open during a process of refreshing a brand. This means that you are not always leading from the front, you may need to lead from behind or beside. This openness will be contagious and people will want to help you achieve the vision.”

  1. Answers are everywhere – Be curious and connect the dots

“Good marketers are curious. They look for answers everywhere – in their brand’s history and in other brands work where learning can be applied. Look to related worlds even if they have very little to do with your industry or your brand, you might be surprised by what you find.  We recently did some innovation work and looked at the physiology of reptiles to better understand the physics of cold. It was a really interesting approach.”

  1. Challenge the sacred cows

“With a brand that’s been in market for any length of time, there will ineviteably be some long held beliefs, myths and people who declare “you can’t change that “about your brand. If you are going to be successful in really re-lighting a brand, it is important that nothing is sacred. While there will be some core equities that only need dusting, there will be some things that need to be tossed out if the brand is really to emerge in a fresh and powerful position. With Coors Light we deconstructed the brand and made some tough calls on a few of our pillar promotions. No stone was left unturned.”

  1. Do something now before it’s too late

“It’s much easier to refresh a brand showing early signs of softness vs. trying to resuscitate a brand after years of decline and serious erosion of equity. You will face resistence from people who say, “It ain’t broke, don’t fix it” but experienced marketers will recognize the signs and support you in your journey to refresh a brand while it’s still healthy.  In our case, Coors Light is the #1 brand in Canada and we weren’t complacent. The team and I wanted to set the brand up for the next period of growth while we are still at the top.”

Okay Category leaders…get those feet off the table; Apply the 7 principles to your brand; and celebrate staying on top of your category with an ice cold Coors Light (I get paid $1 every time I write that!).  If you have additional tips on how to bring Freshness to a brand – we’d love to hear them!

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