The Beer Store embraces ‘I owe you a beer’ for summer campaign

Who: The Beer Store, with dentsumcgarrybowen (the agency formerly known as DentsuBos) for creative, and OMD for media.

What: A new campaign for Ontario’s beer retailer, based on the chummy expression “I owe you a beer,” or I.O.U.B.

When & Where: It launched this week, running until Sept. 15. The media is digital only (video, static and GIFs) along with a special Spotify component (see below).

Why: Because summer is coming, and that’s an important time for The Beer Store to be top of mind for the province’s beer drinkers. The retailer has been working on a friendlier, more fun brand positioning over the past couple of years in an attempt to be seen as the affordable “store next door” option in 440 communities across the province, said director of marketing Natasha McVie.  “It’s something that we’ve never really done before.”

How: Creative is built around small but meaningful good deeds—returning a runaway dog, loaning tools, gifting fresh-baked bread—for which people might express their gratitude with a simple: “I owe you a beer.”

“It’s about really bringing those moments to the forefront,” said McVie. People are seeking fun and playfulness, particularly right now, and The Beer Store can often be a part of those moments. “I think that connective tissue is something that customers are really looking for in a retailer.”

Was creative changed for the pandemic? The new campaign has been in development since early in the year, but took on deeper meaning with the COVID crisis, said McVie.

“I owe you a beer” is about goodwill and showing appreciation—the desire to give thanks to others. “I just think it has such a special meaning, even more so now, as a result of the pandemic,” said McVie.

Some of the moments of goodness are clearly pandemic-inspired (aside from the baked bread, there’s one about toilet paper) but the brand message was there before COVID. However, there is an added emphasis on the value message in response to the rising financial concerns of many hurt by the crisis: saving $9 on a two-four at The Beer Store.

What about Spotify: “We know that our consumer and beer lovers are very big music enthusiasts, and streaming is a part of that. So it was about leveraging Spotify to reach our audience with relevant messaging,” said McVie. “What we’ve done is created a custom playlist featuring Canadian artists called The Beer Store Vibes.”

If in the past The Beer Store might have given out CDs featuring classic rock warhorses like BTO or Bon Jovi, this playlist is not that. Instead, it’s a mix of cool country, urban and chill sing-songwriter tunes, clearly intended for a much younger audience.

Quote: “Once the pandemic began, and we saw people doing such incredible things for their neighbours, we knew the community platform was more relevant than ever,” said Lyranda Martin-Evans. “We’re building brand love and reminding people where they can safely pick up their 2-4s through a number of channels, driving conversion.”

David Brown