CLOSE-UP: NEWSMAKER/JAMIE LISTER - Brewing's lightweight takes on the heavy-hitters. Jamie Lister plans to lead the beer sector with Coors Light, Camilla Palmer says

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

right.



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

into research.



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

in 2002.



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.'



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