How the 350 year old Kronenbourg brewery is reinventing itself for the ‘content era’

Kronenbourg has reframed the brand for drinkers countless times over its long history and as it celebrates the 350th anniversary of its brewery its marketing repertoire is transforming to put what it calls “added value content” at the heart of future approach to digital.

Video: Kronenbourg “Tastemakers’ advert

Few mainstream brewers can boast of a history as sprawling as Kronenbourg. From its early days as a leading local brewer in France to the briefly banned Eric Cantona ads championing its origins, the brand’s “France’s premier beer” positioning has been stretched to keep it top of mind in light of shifting consumption habits over the years.

It is an interesting contrast to the likes of Heineken, Stella Artois and Guinness, which have continuously strayed from their original premises to ensure modernity. For Kronenbourg, the marketing throughline has given it the “authority” to talk about the hops, aromas and craft of the beer at a time when the category is inundated with brewer’s touting premium and pricier flavoured brews to new, younger drinkers.

Older more provenance-conscious are more likely to steer toward premium tasting lagers, a trend Kronenbourg’s senior brand manager Pasquale Bradascio says it can exploit through digital.

“There aren’t many [mainstream] beers that have a history as old as Kronenbourg. [The brand’s anniversary] represented a great opportunity to talk about the incredible heritage and taste superiority behind the brand across every touchpoint.”

The shift also encompasses the brand’s celebrity-filled online ‘Tastemakers’ web series, which uses influencers such as former Blur bassist Alex James to give the brand a more lifestyle-orientated tone. While the brewer has dabbled in music and food-related marketing in the past, the content push marks a turning point in that Kronenbourg plans to be less dependent on traditional channels such as TV and print.

Bradascio adds: “We’re using our [online] content to land our core heritage in different ways. The priority for us is establishing a footprint in digital. These days digital plays an increasingly important role in every brand media mix and it is also relevant for our 35-to-49-year old target audience, because its usage flexibility fits well with their stretched time schedule.

“The anniversary campaign had a holistic approach where we tied below-the-line closer to the work on TV and in print. Digital is key to our future and we’re working on a number of developments to bring that added value to consumers.”

The investment comes as Kronenbourg looks on course to outpace the market in 2014. Off-trade value sales rose 12.5 per cent to £115m in the 52 weeks to 21 June compared to 6 per cent growth for the wider category, according to IRI. The success is attributed to the brand’s steadfast focus on older drinkers, which has served as a buffer from the shifting drinking habits affecting younger-orientated beers.

But there are signs that the brewer is paying more attention to a wider audience. The latest content drive will no doubt appeal to a younger demographic, allowing Kronenbourg to exploit an influx of younger drinkers into the category who have no brand loyalty but a thirst for provenance. Its most recent push for provenance, an ad featuring ex-footballer Eric Cantona, was handed a set back earlier this year when it was briefly banned by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). The TV spot (see above) was eventually overturned following an independent review.

Bradascio says: “There’s a real demand for superior beers at the moment and it’s becoming more crucial to be able to tell a premium story not just advertise.”

“We’ve been able to generate some great visibility off the work with done around our anniversary campaign and online. There’s a synergy between all touchpoints that we’re working toward that will take Kronenbourg to more people.”


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