Magazine article Marketing

Mark Ritson on Branding: Unsuitable Patrons Must Be Deterred

Magazine article Marketing

Mark Ritson on Branding: Unsuitable Patrons Must Be Deterred

Article excerpt

Jerome Hatt was a very modern man for the 17th century. When he earned his diploma in brewing and coopery he wasted no time opening a small brewery in the Brasserie du Canon, just a few steps from the cathedral in Strasbourg.

It was a superior position in what was, at that time, one of the more elegant towns in France. The town was also part of Alsace, an area rapidly emerging as the premier region in France for beer. By 1850, Hatt's brewery had grown and relocated to the nearby town of Kronenbourg.

The company began to distinguish itself by using only Strisselspalt hops - the 'caviar of hops' - to ensure a superior taste and aroma for its beer. Growth continued into the 20th century and in 1947 the decision was made to rename the brewery in honour of its home town of Kronenbourg.

While other French breweries continued to produce big bottles of affordable but bland beer, Kronenbourg differentiated itself in the post-Second World War era by offering premium Bierre d'Alsace in smaller bottles at higher prices. It invested heavily in advertising and the brand became the most prestigious and popular beer in France.

In 1952, to celebrate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth, a stronger export brand called 1664 was launched in honour of the brewery's founding year.

The brand, acquired by Scottish and Newcastle in 2000, has continued to build on its premium position in recent years with a Phillippe Starck-designed can, premium pricing, a Gold Medal in the Brewing Industry Awards, and big-budget M&C Saatchi ads featuring composers and sculptures.

It is a consistent, premium brand. But it has one problem: its British customers. Performance-drinking beerheads who want to get drunk fast are hardly consistent with a brand built around premium, contemporary elegance for more than three centuries.

Kronenbourg is now engaged in an important but incredibly difficult strategy: getting rid of loyal but unsuitable customers. Call it what you like - anti-marketing, customer removal management - Kronenbourg must do it in order to remain true to its brand equity.

In a world where marketers try to control every aspect of the brand experience, it is easy to forget that one of the most influential touchpoints for any brand is its existing customers. …

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