James Ready wants to play the market with some lucky consumers

Who: Moosehead Breweries (James Ready brand) with King Ursa for creative and media, Craft Public Relations for PR.

What: “The James Ready Mutual Fun(d),” a new stock market-themed campaign inspired in part by the GameStop stock spike earlier this year. The campaign is promoting the beer brand in Ontario and Nova Scotia—after previously pulling out of the province because of sluggish sales. Moosehead now identifies Nova Scotia as a “priority market” for James Ready, said senior brand manager Cory Owens. “We’re going back in a big way.”

When & Where: The campaign launched this week, with a dedicated hub at JRMutualFun.ca, out-of-home ads in Halifax and Toronto’s financial district, as well as digital and social. There’s also a stunt component that will see James Ready promoting the fund by flying an aerial banner over Ontario beach towns like Wasaga Beach and Grand Bend this holiday weekend.

Why: The inspiration for the campaign came from the Reddit-based WallStreetBets movement that led to massive (and unexpected) surges in stock prices for companies like GameStop earlier this year, creating buzz around the stock market and investing. “It was such a hot topic, and we wondered if there was a way we could get JR consumer in on it in a fun way, and risk-free,” said Owens.

The campaign comes on the heels of a packaging update for James Ready introduced earlier this year (see more below), and corresponds with the brand’s history of out-of-the-box marketing, said Owens. “We’re always looking for new ways to push boundaries and connect with our drinkers on a different level.”

The beer category in general has been under pressure as hard seltzers gain popularity, although Owens said that the typical James Ready drinker tends to be a diehard fan who always finds their way back to the brand.

“You have your loyal beer drinkers who, regardless of what the hot new trend is, they’re going to stick with their tried-and-true beer,” said Owens.

Who is the James Ready drinker? They’re predominantly male (about 80%), early 20s to late 30s. They are active on digital/social, and tend to be plugged into current events. Owens defines them as “down to earth, honest people” who don’t get caught up in trends. “At the end of the day, they value quality and consistency over something that’s new and flashy.”

How: The brand has diverted $20,000 that would otherwise be earmarked for traditional advertising to purchase Canadian and U.S. stocks recommended by its drinkers on the JRMutualFun.ca website. And yes, it really did carve out a portion of its summer ad budget for the promotion.

“We actually were thinking that maybe we’d go into traditional advertising, but we said ‘Let’s pull $20,000 out of that fund and have some fun with it,'” said Owens. “It left us enough to meet our objectives around what we wanted to do from a traditional advertising perspective, but gave us a significant amount of money to have fun and engage our consumers.”

The brand is inviting a maximum of 5,000 people to select five stocks from a predetermined list of approximately 200, and provide one hot stock tip by Aug. 9. A shortlist of the top 20 selected stocks will then go to a final vote. James Ready expects to sell the stocks around mid-October, with registered participants receiving a cheque for their share of what’s in the fund. During the course of the campaign, James Ready plans to hold “shareholder” meetings inviting participants to have a say in what it does with the fund.

The redesign: The redesign by Toronto-based design company Art & Mechanical and King Ursa is more streamlined and less cluttered, and is intended to modernize the brand—particularly for younger drinkers who may have heard of James Ready, but never tried it, said Owens.

It prominently features the brand’s lion mascot (which was inspired by the Royal Banner of Scotland and nods to the brand’s Scottish heritage), which has gone from comprising a small part of the label to taking up much more real estate. “When we looked at our old packaging, we said ‘If this can live in a more prominent way, we really think it will help with the whole look, tone and feel of the brand,'” said Owens.

It also swaps out the James Ready name for the more colloquial “JR,” which is how the brand is typically referred to by its customers. “We wanted to communicate the brand to consumers the way they usually talk about it,” said Owens. 

And we quote: “There’s a sort of sea of sameness in the beer industry right now. You walk into the store and look around and everything looks a little similar—especially when we look at the segment that James Ready plays in. We wanted to stand out, not just with our personality, but also our look and feel.” —Cory Owens, senior brand manager, Moosehead Breweries

Chris Powell