Monday, February 12, 2007

Oly Beer

I had a few cans of Olympia Beer this weekend at an awesome bar, Doc's Clock. I totally Yelped it highly, as the place was a lot of fun. Anyway, they served Olympia Beer there, which is totally awesome. I did my undergrad at The University of Montana and this beer (along with Hamm's) was a regular at rugby drink-ups and other booze related affairs that I attended. It was cheap, it was ubiquitous and it got you drunk. Unfortunately, since I've left the Pacific Northwest I've yet to see any more Oly, until, lo and behold, Doc's Clock had it. Which sparked a little research interest in me, which led me to the finding that Oly had been bought out in 2003! But it's OK, 'cause Pabst (another fave of mine) picked her up. Go PBR!

So anywho, I found a neat little article about Oly and the saga it went through, courtesy of the nice folks at Kelley Advertising & Marketing. I posted it below. Enjoy.

Olympia Beer

A Good Campaign Accelerates the Death of a Brand

Olympia was a pale lager with a light taste, not unlike Coors.

In 1980, Olympia came to Chiat/Day, where I was working, to compete with several other agencies in creating a campign to help with their failing brand. Olympia Beer was brewed in the Western Washington town of Tumwater, and had been a local favorite, but was losing ground both to Budweiser and Miller and a local beer, Rainier, which had been running an inconsistent, irreverent, humorous TV campaign based on pop culture parodies. Meantime, Olympia's advertising was bland and ordinary and did nothing to overcome its image as 'my dad's beer'.

It appeared that there were no fundamental problems with the product, so the marketing communications challenge appeared to be simply to make Olympia 'okay for younger beer drinkers'.

We felt that humor would provide the best approach, but we didn't want to copy the Saturday Night Live humor of the Rainier advertising.

We were pondering a communications strategy when I suggested a brand personality based upon an entity--the Artesians. My feeling was that they could be an 'underground' group of free spirits that played pranks. But the Creative Department felt the Artesians should be more like leprechauns or elves, and that the humor should come from the lack of credibility of the people claiming to see them.

We were chosen by Olympia to produce our 'Artesian' campaign, and launched it a few months later.

The campaign was a resounding success. The brewery began to get hundreds of letters a month. the Artesians entered the popular culture locally, and both awareness of the Olympia brand and trial rates for the beer soared.

But ultimately, the campaign failed.


At the same time the Olympia Brand Management was selecting a new ad agency, they had given the assignment of redesigning the packaging of Olympia to Bright and Associates, an outstanding L.A. design firm. Bright came up with new designs that, as the client requested, emphasized the lightness Olympia was known for.

When the advertising did its job, and got beer drinkers to try Olympia again, they anticipated drinking a light-tasting beer.

Unbeknownst to the product managers, the brewmasters had, at the same time, reformulated the beer to a richer, more 'European' taste. They did a great job. This newly-formulated beer was a clear winner in double-blind taste tests against all the major American beers.

The result was disaster.

Buyers of Olympia--especially those trying it out for the first time--expecting a light beer, tasted something else entirely. They judged the new Olympia as a "bad light beer" instead of the objective judgement: a "rich tasting beer".

This mis-communication destroyed Olympia Beer's tenuous hold on market share, and resulted in the brewery being sold, and the loss of many jobs. (Though several micro breweries were launced by departed personnel.)

The moral of this case history is that you have to understand what your product is to the consumer. The product is more than you say it is. It both "is what it is" and it also 'is what it was'. And even good advertising cannot save a product that's mis-marketed.

Also, I thought I'd add a few YouTube commercial clips. Enjoy further.