Coors Brewing International's new European marketing director,
Jamie Lister, is patiently explaining what constitutes a light beer and
what does not.
He stresses that it's about taste, while evidence shows the majority of
misguided consumers are convinced light beers are low in calories,
alcohol and, worryingly, taste.
It's a conversation Lister is probably going to have with the great
unwashed many times as he oversees the launch of Coors Light in the UK
over the next few months.
The beer is on trial in Scotland, where drinkers are famously loyal to
established brands and ready to reject anything new. Lister says: 'If it
works there, then we'll know we're on the right track.'
The light beer sector has no clear brand leader at present. In January,
Anheuser-Busch pulled its Bud Light brand after only two years. Not even
the pounds 5 million TV campaign from BMP DDB helped it claim a
significant enough share of drinkers.
Coors Light first hit the UK in 1999, when it was launched into the
Scottish market with a pounds 1.2 million TV campaign by FCB with the
tagline: 'Keeps the light on.'
But Lister's real brief is bigger: he's aiming to take Coors Light to
the top of the entire beer sector - lights and non-lights alike. He does
have help: the strength of the Coors brand. It's the fourth-largest beer
in the US, and has a substantial slice of the light sector. Light beers
are growing at 7 per cent each year in the US and look set to overtake
the conventional beer sector in that country.
'The Coors brand is strong and has a positive image here - such as the
fellow US stalwarts Hersheys or Chevrolet. It also has a high awareness
among consumers,' he says, adding that it is due to overtake Miller Lite
in the US 'any day now'.
But his is a tough challenge. He's up against hundreds of brands, all
targeting themselves at the same core audience: young males aged between
18 and 30.
It's a prospect all the more challenging, given the beer market is in
decline, according to Lister.
He also has the difficult communications task of removing the confusion
and stigma of what 'light' actually means.
'Coors Light has never made any claims about having a low alcohol
content or being better for you,' Lister says. Bud Light was lower in
calories but had an equal alcohol content, and BMP's strategy focused on
that contradiction in its ad campaign.
'It's my job to make sure the taste message is drummed home - it's a
huge challenge, but also an opportunity,' Lister stresses.
He comes to Coors with a wealth of brand-building experience. He joined
Guinness shortly after a degree in business studies and economics at
Leeds in 1989. Three years later he went to IMP for a year, then moved
to Epona, a small ad agency, where he worked on Berkeley Homes.
After travelling for a year, he joined Claydon Heeley Jones Mason in
1996, where he worked on accounts such as Compaq, Telewest, Carlsberg
and Smirnoff. He was also partly responsible for the launch of Ford's
Ka, according to Claydon Heeley's vice-chairman, Leo Campbell.
At Coors, which he joined in January, Lister replaces Rob Borland, who
has moved to head the brewer's marketing in Asia.
While English drinkers won't see Coors Light until next January at the
earliest, Lister claims he'll be busy working with Banks Hoggins
O'Shea/FCB and BJK&E on getting the advertising and media strategy
He's not planning a massive above-the-line spend - yet. The pounds 10
million annual marketing spend earmarked for the brand is largely going
So far, test marketing in Scotland has only involved bus-wraps.
'My first job is to make sure the brand is fully understood and that it
connects entirely with our core consumer,' Lister says. He stresses the
importance of attracting younger drinkers before their palates get used
to the taste of ordinary lager.
Lister has also hired a specialist youth marketing consultancy - he
won't reveal which, as it currently works on a rival brand. The company
will work on the target proposition, leading to ads appearing some time
Lister also won't discuss any creative ideas, but reveals that ads have
just been shot in the Arctic Circle for the Irish market in the first
week of April.
For the moment, he's concentrating on building a brand from the bottom
up: 'We're looking at a strategy to make the brand strong over ten to 20
years. I'm doing the homework to make this happen.'