Media: Strategy Analysis - Selling cider to discerning drinkers

Brand: Magners Original Irish Cider Client: Stephen Kent, marketing manager, ciders, Bulmers Brief: Launch Magners Original Irish Cider in London Target audience: Men and women aged 18 to 34 Budget: £6 million for the whole of 2005 AGENCIES Media: Simon Jenkins at Media Planning Group Creative: Young Euro RSCG (Dublin)

STRATEGY

Magners was launched in London in spring 2005, following a successful launch in Scotland in 2003. The drink was marketed as a refreshing, cool summer drink and positioned as an alternative to other long alcoholic drinks. Magners' unique selling point is that it is a 100 per cent natural product that comes in a bottle and should be served in a pint glass over ice.

The Magners launch strategy focused on using advertising to drive distribution to drinking establishments. The aim was to achieve campaign momentum and brand salience quickly, in order to generate consumer consideration and demand.

The campaign to create a new niche of "premium cider" within the cluttered long alcoholic drink category. This new niche would dispel the negative connotations associated with adolescent memories of cider, making it respectable again and positioning Magners as a credible alternative to lager.

EXECUTION

MPG focused the launch strategy on quality over quantity, and identified the optimum windows of opportunity to reach the target consumers. The campaign took a subtle, laid-back approach, in contrast to the "laddish" norm of the category. This aimed to position Magners on a different level from other ciders and target the discerning drinker.

- TV: MPG took into consideration that people don't watch channels, they watch programmes, and cherry-picking programmes was the best means of delivering salience with key consumers and bolstering Magners' positioning.

- Radio: MPG identified the "window of opportunity" as being in the evenings, in order to hit consumers at the end of the working day, as they're thinking about visiting the pub or the bar. Airtime therefore only runs from 5pm onwards, and is upweighted towards the end of the week, when consumers are more likely to be drinking socially.

- Outdoor was used as the final call to action, directing consumers into the bars and pubs.

Roadside six-sheets delivered a high-street presence close to key bars.

The London Underground was used to add relevance over the summer. Juxtaposing a crisp, refreshing product with the hottest, sweatiest environment possible increased brand desirability.

Concentrating the communication within an encapsulated environment and using multiple formats helped Magners appear to be everywhere.

RESULTS

MPG's strategy helped Mag-ners create a resurgence in the cider industry and become the best-selling cider in the UK test market. It is difficult to quantify success, as the product only launched in London in April.

However, it is evident the brand has gained momentum.

Distribution couldn't keep up with demand, and the marketing manager now receives 30 to 40 e-mails a night from London consumers who see the ads and want to drink the product, but can't find it.

Strongbow, which previously dominated the UK cider market, felt the threat of Magners and has tried to counter this by launching Sirrus, its own brand of premium cider.

THE VERDICT - Toby Roberts, head of strategy, OMD UK

Launching a new alcohol brand is a dream brief. Particularly in a sector that's been quiet for so long (unless you count Strongbow's "whale tongue" execution).

MPG certainly built a strong presence across TV, radio and outdoor quickly, bringing the product to a broad audience. Based on a sample size of one, I've certainly seen plenty of the campaign, and there does seem to be a bit of a buzz about the product, as is evidenced by the fact that demand seems to be outstripping supply or, at least, distribution.

In terms of channels, the Underground was a clear choice, helped by the stifling heat, to showcase a cold, refreshing drink. I also liked the idea of "clustering" the outdoor sites to give the impression of ubiquity for the campaign.

The radio followed similar principles, concentrating airtime into the evenings and upweighting the end of the week, again creating the impression of ubiquity and adding a recency element to the campaign.

I was less convinced by the TV. Balancing the desire to appear in "discerning" environments with the necessity for rapid coverage is a difficult act to pull off, and this perhaps explains some rogue Emmerdales and Coronation Streets that appear on the plan. I would have been tempted either to go solely after environment or to continue the density strategy and only buy airtime from, say, Thursday to Saturday.

I would also like to have seen a bit more thought go into how the brand positioning could have been brought to life. Some kind of radio promotion feels an obvious extension and I was surprised by the absence of online media, given its natural fit with the audience. Also, no mention is made of any on-premises activity.

The strategy feels like it could have been more focused - the clustering strategy feels like it could have been pushed a bit further, to really ramp up the feeling of ubiquity. The alternative would be to concentrate on more "discerning" environments, bolstering the brand positioning and then letting word-of-mouth drive things on. It feels like a slightly missed opportunity for the brand to really own some territory, particularly as competitive products start to launch.

Still, the product is flying, so this all seems a bit academic. Cheers.

SCORE: 2.5/5.

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