Standfirst: Molson Coors is making waves as a true innovator in the drinks industry. Passionfruit dives head first into how it can become a ‘one-to-watch’ trailblazer, fuelled by smart partnerships and cutting-edge marketing strategies that embrace technology and the metaverse. With a strong focus on sustainability and immersive drinking experiences, it can set new industry standards as a purpose-driven business with its consumers front and centre.
TODAY: Current State of Play
Legendary Molson Coors Beverage Company was born back in 1786 when John Molson set up shop in Montreal, Canada. With their brewing prowess and a lineup of iconic beverages like Coors Light, Miller Lite, and Molson Canadian, they've been quenching thirst and making memories for centuries.
Beyond the Ordinary: Molson Coors' Unique Approach
In 2019, Molson Coors took a tech-savvy leap and launched direct-to-consumer websites for its beer brands, becoming a digital innovation leader. With e-commerce and data insights, they're all about catering to their target consumers and staying ahead of market trends.
Three notable advertising campaigns from recent years:
- Coors Lite's "Made to Chill" campaign was all about embracing the "always-on" lifestyle. Their refreshing and crisp beer becomes the perfect escape from the daily grind, inviting everyone to kick back and relax (and of course, crack open a Coors Lite).
- During the Super Bowl, a Coors Lite vs Miller Lite commercial on DraftKings got over 250k participants excited. It was a never-before-seen initiative, allowing Americans to win cash by predicting various things, from the bartender's outfit to whether the Coors Light Silver Bullet Train would make a surprise appearance.
- Miller Lite's "woke" commercial was a breath of fresh air. It celebrated the brand's efforts to empower women in the beer industry, moving away from outdated ads featuring bikini-clad women (so unoriginal). While it got some backlash from right-wing commentators, it demonstrated Molson Coors’ drive to be a progressive company.
Empowering Consumer Experiences: Molson Coors' New CMO
In March 2023, Molson Coors landed a rockstar addition to the team – Sofia Colucci as Chief Marketing Officer. Her campaigns are about boosting brand visibility and creating a workplace that celebrates diversity and inclusion. Driven by data, personalised experiences, and direct-to-consumer sales, she’s bringing some groundbreaking innovation to the table.
According to Gavin Hattersley, CEO of MillerCoors, "The beverage business is more competitive now than ever, and Sofia is putting us in a great position by taking smart risks so we can quickly bring new products to the marketplace" (via Chicago Business). Not only is the beverage business more competitive, but it also faces constantly evolving and shifting industry paradigms.
And Molson Coors is not immune to these changes.
Evolving Paradigms: Three Industry Trends for 2023 and Beyond
By strategically harnessing technology, diving into the metaverse, and forming thoughtful collaborations that align with the brand, Molson Coors can fully embrace the growing consumer preferences for:
- Low-ABV and RTD drinks
- Sustainability and provenance
- Experiential drinking
This approach caters to the consumer of tomorrow – who seeks authentic and ethical drinking experiences – and will catapult Molson Coors to the forefront of the industry.
#1: No/Low-alcohol drinks and RTD
The alcohol industry is experiencing a transformative shift driven by a growing "sober-curious" movement, with Gen Z leading the way as the least alcohol-consuming generation. This generation's emphasis on moderation, health, and unease about social media surveillance is having a profound impact on the market.
In response to this trend, non-alcoholic beverages are emerging as a significant opportunity for beer companies to tap into a substantial audience of non-drinkers, representing around 30% of adults in the United States alone.
Join the manufacturers’ race – and win it
Manufacturers have been quick to respond to this trend, engaging in a race to introduce new, lower-alcohol-content products. "Better-for-you" alcoholic alternatives have experienced a remarkable 20.1% sales increase from 2021 to 2022, while low and no-alcohol offerings also saw a 6% increase during the same period.
This shift is prompting industry players to invest more, further fuelling expansion in this market.
Tap into the trend for RTD beverages
RTD beverages, including products like hard seltzer and ready-to-drink cocktails, gained significant popularity during pandemic lockdowns, leading to permanent changes in retailers' stocking strategies. The RTD category is predicted to see continued growth and diversification, especially with looming economic concerns.
Take advantage of booming new markets
The rise of low and non-alcoholic beverages presents a lucrative growth opportunity for the industry. The non-alcoholic beer market is projected to expand at 8% over the next five years, reaching a market value of over $25 billion by 2024. This growth is driven by health-conscious consumers embracing the "wellness revolution" in regions like Asia-Pacific, the Middle East, and Latin America.
With broader accessibility due to no alcohol restrictions, new social experiences like sober bars are emerging. These bars cater to specific consumer preferences and lifestyles, contributing further to the industry's potential growth.
How is Molson Coors navigating this trend?
According to Colucci, her team is always ‘keeping the pulse on what’s happening in culture, but really staying true to our brand’ (Ad Age). And this can be seen in how Molson Coors has actively navigated the trend for no/low-alcohol beverages and RTD products. The company is responding to shifting consumer preferences and the growing demand for healthier, more diverse options in the market.
1. Expanding into RTD Cocktails
Designed to deliver a craft-cocktail experience, Roxie marked the company's debut in the non-alcoholic RTD cocktail space. Sold exclusively online and in various flavours (including Passionfruit), Roxie targets the 21- to 34-year-old demographic, catering to potential consumers who moderate their alcohol consumption or opt for entirely alcohol-free options. Embracing the trend of online sales, this strategic approach allows Molson Coors to gather valuable consumer feedback and rapidly respond to evolving preferences.
2. Embracing the No/Low-Alcohol Trend
Alongside Roxie, Molson Coors introduced Coors Edge. This non-alcoholic beer boasts the lowest calorie and carbohydrate content in its category (no big deal), providing a flavourful alternative to traditional beer without compromising taste.
Staropramen 0.0, Bergenbier non-alcoholic and Blue Moon Non-Alcoholic Belgian White further bolster Molson Coors' commitment to offering a diverse selection of non- and low-alcohol beverages.
3. Innovation and Partnerships
Molson Coors demonstrates innovation through strategic collaborations, like its partnership with L.A. Libations, resulting in non-alcoholic products MadVine, Golden Wing and Huzzah with probiotics.
To stand out in a crowded beer market, Coors co-created new products through partnerships, notably with the Coca-Cola Company for hard seltzers. Celebrity partnerships, such as with Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson for ZOA and Sky News presenter Bela Shah for Carling Lager, further enhance their brand appeal.
Passionfruit says: Unleash the Power of Purposeful Partnerships
Who doesn’t love a partnership? Influencer and celebrity collaborations offer exciting potential in today's consumer-centric landscape.
By thoughtfully aligning with those who genuinely resonate and align with the brand, Molson Coors can enhance visibility and credibility, reaching a diverse consumer base. But it's not just about A-listers; cross-industry partnerships hold vast potential for broader success.
1. Celebrity collaborations
Molson Coors have already seen success with celebrity collaborations with the likes of J. Balvin (see above). When speaking about the ‘Miller Time and Es Jose Time’ collaboration, Colucci spoke about how J. Balvin’s flair really brought the partnership to life in a unique way (Molson Coors).
So why not try this in the non-alcoholic sphere?
Celebrity beverage endorsements have been game-changers for brands and celebrities, elevating the status of non-alcoholic beverages without huge endorsement fees. Brands like WATERMELON WATR and Vita Coco have seen significant growth and success through these partnerships.
By partnering with sober celebrities such as Russell Brand or Blake Lively, Molson Coors could effectively and authentically promote alcohol-free beverages to a broader audience of sober and sober-curious individuals.
Cross-industry collaborations are the way to go for successful and expanded reach – just like Brew Dog's awesome partnership with British Airways that took the consumer experience to new heights (pardon the pun).
Imagine if Miller Lite joined forces with Lay's crisps or Planters peanuts for the ultimate bar experience? Or a bold campaign advertising non-alcoholic drinks like Roxie on Greyhound buses, making it the go-to beverage for epic road trips? Partnering with alcohol-free sports stadiums is another slam-dunk move to promote Molson Coors' alcohol-free products.
And with co-working spaces like WeWork on the rise, Molson Coors could stock them with refreshing no-alcohol drinks to keep Millennial and Gen Z creatives and entrepreneurs fuelled throughout the day, with alcoholic drinks beverages in “Happy Hour and Beyond" fridges.
Responsible drinking promotion
Responsible drinking matters, especially for Gen Z, who value their health and well-being. Some alcohol brands get it, going the extra mile to show they genuinely care. Take Heineken, for instance, changing the conversation from "can't drink" to "choose not to" in their EHR campaign. And Ab InBev? It’s using blockchain tech to verify ages at vending machines.
Molson Coors could position its alcohol-free drinks as the drink of choice rather than necessity – especially if marketed to Gen Z, using a range of micro-influencers such as Millie Gooch, DJ Amazonica and Sober Revolution. Communities including No Booze Babes and Retired Party Girl also present ample opportunity to promote no-alcohol options to an inclusive crowd of sober, “99% sober” and sober-curious crowds.
Molson Coors also has a chance to ride the wave of eco-consciousness with city cycling schemes. By sponsoring popular bike-sharing initiatives like London's Lime bikes and e-scooters, they can position one of their no-alcohol beverages as the go-to choice for responsible, modern cyclists. It's a win-win – supporting sustainable transportation while offering a refreshing, alcohol-free option for those pedalling around town.
Heineken Ireland provided €10 vouchers to 5,000 users of the taxi app Free Now to encourage their products' consumption. Molson Coors can explore strategic partnerships to promote its beverages for different occasions.
For instance, teaming up with Uber could position one of its popular drinks as the go-to choice for those heading out (don’t drink and drive, get an Uber instead), while partnering with a takeaway delivery service like Deliveroo could promote responsible drinking at home. With its diverse portfolio, Molson Coors has the opportunity to be known as a company with a drink for every occasion, catering to a wide range of consumers.
Environmental influencer marketing
Aspalls could leverage environmentally conscious Instagram influencers, including farmers like Julius Roberts, Hannah Roberts and Modern Farmer, to showcase their commitment to environmental stewardship.
Coors Light could associate their drinks with specific activities and personalities, such as female surfer Bethany Hamilton or championship skier Lindsey Vonn, to appeal to particular demographics including women, sporty individuals and beach and snowsports lovers. This would emphasise the refreshing nature of the drinks while highlighting their environmental efforts.
#2: Sustainability and Provenance
Consumers today are all about environmental responsibility and ethical production (we don’t blame them). Gen Zers have no problem paying that little bit extra for sustainable goodies, consistently pushing companies to step up their game.
And the alcohol industry is not unaffected by this consumer transformation.
For this generation of consumers, reducing carbon footprints, being waste-conscious, and sourcing ingredients responsibly, matters more than how good something tastes or how much something costs.
Sustainability is the name of the game and today’s consumers are here to hold brands accountable. This shift in consumer interests creates exciting opportunities for innovators, like Sofia Colucci and her Molson Coors team, to keep raising the bar.
Align your values with the conscious consumer
Consumers want to find products that positively impact the world and their own well-being. And once they find them, they’ll buy them and keep coming back for more. Going organic, natural, and sustainable is where the real loyalty lies.
Shout about provenance
But sustainability isn’t enough. Consumers are also looking for genuine, human connection. At the end of the day, they want the brands they engage with to be authentic and transparent. They want drinks with a traceable supply chain, low waste, and a minimal carbon footprint. ‘Talking the talk’ is not enough. Brands need to ‘walk the walk’ and show they’re legit when telling their stories.
How is Molson Coors navigating this trend?
One of Colucci’s main focuses at Molson Coors is to build ‘truly inclusive brands’ and her team seem to be doing just that. The Molson Coors brand is an industry leader in sustainability. The company is committed to responsible product production and to making a positive impact on the environment.
1. Environmental Stewardship
Molson Coors is on a mission to shrink its environmental footprint with their "Our Imprint" initiatives. They're laser-focused on cutting greenhouse gas emissions, conserving water and kicking waste to the curb. But they’re not stopping there. They’re also levelling up their packaging game by going big on recycled materials and saying goodbye (and good riddance) to single-use plastics.
2. Transparent Supply Chains
When it comes to sourcing, Molson Coors is keeping it real, teaming up with local farmers who are all-in on sustainable practices (we love). And even better? They’re not afraid to show receipts; with regular and transparent reporting on their environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance.
3. Community Engagement
From stakeholders to partners to customers, Colucci’s team is rallying the troops to create lasting, positive change. People are at the heart of their mission, and they put words into action by supporting local communities, championing diversity and inclusion, and promoting responsible drinking.
Passionfruit says: Use Tech to Tell Sustainable Stories
It’s clear Molson Coors is dedicated to innovation and market presence. Recently, it employed QR codes in its summer campaign for Madrí Excepcional, enhancing its marketing efforts.
The 'El alma de Madrid' campaign features on-pack QR codes, granting consumers access to the 'Conectada' platform with surprising brand facts and personalised city maps leading to secret gigs. Interactive and engaging marketing for the win!
That said, there is still untapped potential for Molson Coors to further strengthen its position and meet evolving consumer demands. By utilising smart packaging and blockchain, they can emphasise sustainability and create immersive experiences to enhance brand loyalty and trust.
Employ QR codes to highlight provenance
In 2022, Molson Coors introduced the Coors Banquet Legacy Collection, showcasing its history with eye-catching heritage packaging. This was a hit with long-time fans and caught the attention of craft-beer enthusiasts.
But how could the Molson Coors team take this further? By adding QR codes to its smart packaging.
Imagine scanning a code and immersing yourself in the story of the beer's origin. Anheuser-Busch InBev did something similar in 2021, letting customers track their malt beverages' journey through the blockchain.
And it's not just beer; the fashion industry is getting in on the action too. H&M uses a nifty token called "Fibercoin" to trace its materials from start to finish. Being open about the product's journey is a big deal for eco-conscious consumers and helps build trust in the brand.
Use blockchain for inventory management and sustainability
Smart packaging and blockchain can also track and trace items throughout their life cycles, enabling Molson Coors to improve supply chain and inventory management.
For instance, Heineken conducted a pilot programme which used blockchain to trace hops through its supply chain, capturing environmental data such as water and fuel consumption. This information was accessible to consumers through QR codes.
By being transparent about company production practices and utilising blockchain, Molson Coors could reinforce its commitment to sustainability and eco-friendly practices.
#3: Experiential Drinking
Gone are the days of just savouring the taste; the experiential trend demands a complete 360-degree journey which extends beyond the mere act of sipping.
Alcohol brands now have to dive into the world of multi-sensory delights and create captivating brand experiences to stand out in a bustling (and continuously evolving) market.
Discover the power of brand activations
Brand activations offer memorable and interactive experiences that elevate drinking encounters. These connections create a lasting impression and foster loyalty, resulting in a vital "halo effect."
Research shows 75% of drinkers are more likely to repurchase a drink for home consumption if they enjoyed it during an on-premise experience. On-premise settings like bars and restaurants provide the perfect backdrop to explore new brands, with 41% of US consumers and 47% of 21-24 year-olds open to trying new drink brands. In Europe, 38% of on-premise consumers are open to new drinks, and 59% are willing to trade up for premium choices.
By utilising the power of brand activations, companies are able to create immersive brand experiences for potential and current consumers, increasing the opportunity to cultivate brand connections.
Embrace the metaverse
With the constant evolution of technology, the metaverse has become an exciting frontier for experiential drinking. In this digital realm, brands can weave captivating experiences, and interact with consumers like never before.
By embracing the metaverse, Molson Coors will unlock boundless possibilities for crafting one-of-a-kind drinking adventures and connecting to its audience in a new dimension.
Capitalise on the influence of Gen Z
We all know Gen Z longs for authenticity and for being guided by a strong ethical compass. But this generation has also shaped the experiential drinking trend.
Brands are leveraging this generation's values and interests to create innovative, out-of-the-box campaigns that resonate with them. Non-alcoholic beverage brands like Bare Zero Proof have collaborated with bartenders to craft experiential brand activations which appeal to the sober Gen Z demographic.
Brands who aren’t leveraging the power of Gen Z, will undoubtedly be left behind.
How is Molson Coors embracing this trend?
Molson Coors isn’t ignoring this trend; it’s aiming to connect with consumers on a deeper level. And it’s tapping into its creative side. During an interview with Ad Age, Colucci described herself as ‘obsessed with creativity’ saying she believed ‘it’s the secret sauce to building long-term brand growth’ (Ad Age). And boy is she right.
But how is Colucci and her Molson Coors marketing team putting this philosophy into practice?
In short, yes.
An example is the Meta Lite Bar, an immersive, whimsical playground featuring interactive activities like darts, billiards, a photo booth for "meta-selfies," a virtual jukebox and digital instruments for customers to play on a virtual stage.
Events and Pop-Up Experiences
Molson Coors also knows how to throw a party.
It brings the buzz to consumers through epic events and on-trend pop-ups, revealing their latest and greatest.
Coors Light's trendy, new packaging debut at the Plastic-Free Future Mart in Brooklyn was a one-of-a-kind experience, with the added bonus of consumer prizes. Showcasing Coors Light’s pancake mix and cereal, it took consumers into a future world, one where plastic wasn’t the main character. Meanwhile, Après Dublin turned a whole venue into a snowy ski lodge and lively village.
With these immersive activations, Molson Coors strikes a chord with its audience, creating lasting memories and brand loyalty.
Embracing Virtual and Digital Experiences
When the pandemic hit, Molson Coors had to pivot. They hopped on the virtual train with their Revl e-commerce platform. With Revl, consumers can get the full Molson Coors experience delivered right to their doorstep across the UK. Revl offers a lineup of exclusive products, glassware, virtual beer tastings and themed accompaniments like portable speakers. Whether it’s chilling at home or having a blast with friends, Molson Coors has got its customer covered.
Colucci’s and Molson Coors’s mission to create brands built around inclusivity is seen through this stunning collaboration with J. Balvin for Miller Lite, launching a branded clothing line to support Latino-owned businesses.
The company's dedication to diversity is reflected in partnerships and more significant initiatives, resonating personally with the brand's public relations manager, Vincent Ventura, who is a part of the queer community.
Passionfruit says: Go Beyond the Bar via Brand Activations and the Metaverse
Molson Coors has made commendable efforts in engaging consumers through brand activations and technology. However, the opportunities for creatively tapping into this trend are endless, and Molson Coors still has so many things they can test to further connect with digitally savvy consumers.
The Metaverse: A Digital Frontier
Gartner Inc. predicts that by 2026, 25% of people will spend one hour daily in the metaverse for work, shopping, socialising and entertainment.
This shows just how much the marketing landscape has and will continue to change in the years to come. And, why companies like Molson Coors need to continue tapping into the metaverse in innovative ways.
When speaking at the 2022 ANA Digital and Social Media Conference, Colucci spoke about Molson Coors’ overall goal when it came to the metaverse. With loads of brands jumping into the metaverse in ways that didn’t make sense for their brand, Colucci wanted to find a way to continue to create ‘authentic, real-time, in-person connections…that [still] feel authentic in the metaverse.’ (ANA Conference). Their solution was to connect the virtual world to the real world in a way that was still rooted in Molson Coors’s brand identity.
But there’s so much more they could be testing!
Embracing Web3 strategies, such as gamified content, virtual concerts and NFTs, Molson Coors will be able to effectively engage Gen Z (who are often challenging to reach) through traditional advertising channels, but in authentic ways.
Unleashing the R adventure
Molson Coors has the power to take beer enthusiasts on an extraordinary journey.
Picture this: an immersive augmented reality (AR) game that blurs the lines between the real and virtual worlds. As you venture through city streets, you uncover hidden surprises, collect exclusive NFTs and interact with iconic brand mascots. It's an adrenaline-fuelled quest which turns beer consumption into an exhilarating adventure.
A tapestry of immersive storytelling
Taking inspiration from Treasury Wine Estates' The Walking Dead Wines, Molson Coors could embrace the art of immersive storytelling. It can turn each beer bottle into a portal of enchantment through augmented reality. With every scan, consumers would unlock captivating narratives, immersing themselves in a world of rich history and compelling tales. Suddenly, collecting bottles becomes an enthralling experience, completing the tapestry of storytelling that leaves consumers wanting more.
Uniting with gaming legends
Influenced by Katy Perry's De Soi, Molson Coors can collaborate with gaming legends and esports icons. By featuring its brews in virtual worlds and in-game events, the brand can gain an unrivalled presence in the gaming universe. Exclusive in-game rewards, personalised skins, and virtual meet-and-greets with gaming idols would not only amplify appeal, but establish Molson Coors as the ultimate go-to for gamers.
Experiencing the soundscape of beer
Drawing inspiration from Kinahan's Irish Whiskey's digital ambassadors, Molson Coors can dive into the realm of sonic branding, crafting unique soundscapes that resonate with its audience. Music-inspired campaigns, virtual concerts and immersive audio experiences could let consumers into the world of Molson Coors. By tapping into the power of sound, it could create an unforgettable connection with consumers, reinforcing brand loyalty with every melody.
Seeking inspiration beyond the industry
The Molson Coors team can and should take inspiration from the fashion industry's metaverse success for marketing.
For instance, Louis Vuitton's interactive game "Louis the Game", lets players embark on a journey as Vivienne – collecting candles symbolising the brand's heritage. A similar activation could educate consumers about Molson Coors' rich history and allow for a deeper brand connection.
Gucci's metaverse explorations through NFT collaborations showcase adaptability and inclusivity, setting an example for Molson Coors. Emphasising inclusivity in their metaverse marketing could engage diverse communities.
Ferrari's collaboration with Fortnite created excitement for the company’s car model release. Molson Coors could consider partnering with a car brand to position one of its beverages as a preferred choice for the automotive community.
IRL ideas for Molson Coors:
In-person brand activations also offer immense potential for Molson Coors to showcase creativity and innovation in the alcohol market.
- Coors Craft Nights: Inspired by Absolut Vodka's "Absolut Nights," Molson Coors can host "Coors Craft Nights" at iconic locations. These vibrant events would blend art, music and mixology, offering interactive experiences through digital installations. Attendees can engage with the brewing process, Molson Coors’ history and diverse beer portfolio, forging unforgettable memories.
- Personalised Brews: Taking a cue from Jameson Irish Whiskey, Molson Coors can offer interactive beer-making workshops. Consumers learn the brewing process and craft personalised beer bottles, immersing themselves in the art of brewing.
- Coastal Conservation Celebrations: Drawing on Corona's initiatives, Molson Coors can collaborate with marine conservation organisations for beach clean-up events and eco-friendly beach parties. Participants can enjoy sustainable beer options while contributing to environmental stewardship. A win-win.
Conclusion and Takeaways
Molson Coors is at the forefront of revolutionising the beverage industry through innovative marketing techniques, including technology and blockchain. Over the last few years, Molson Coors’s marketing team has refined how they approach their brands. According to Colucci, Molson Coors bring ‘a strong point of view…do things that are culturally relevant…and focus on amplifying that.’ (Colucci via Newsweek).
By listening to today’s consumers and embracing intelligent packaging and blockchain, the company has the opportunity to set new industry standards and appeal to consumers prioritising ethical practices and responsible consumption.
This transformative journey will reshape the industry, creating a stronger, more sustainable, customer-centric future as a purpose-driven brand. Through brand activations and the metaverse, Molson Coors can connect with digitally savvy younger audiences, enhancing brand loyalty and establishing itself as an experiential and digital marketing leader. Collaborating with influencers and celebrities will further amplify its reputation and foster authentic connections with the target audience.
Embracing partnership diversity, Molson Coors could tap into various markets, promoting responsible drinking and environmental stewardship. With a dedication to innovation, ethical practices and customer engagement, Molson Coors will be better positioned to lead the industry towards a brighter and more responsible future. And in doing so will solidify its position as a trailblazer shaping the beverage industry's trajectory.