Why Cold Ones wants to be enjoyed irresponsibly

Who: Cold Ones, with Wunderman Thompson for branding and visual identity.

What: The introduction of the new non-alcoholic beer, with a brand positioning claiming that the best thing about beer “has never been the alcohol,” while at the same time evoking the fun-loving tone of traditional beer branding.

When & Where: The new brand identity just launched, with plans to have the beer in market later this year, supported by an organic / social campaign.

Why: Cold Ones contends that most non-alcoholic beers promote a “responsible lifestyle,” while it wants to be the fun 0% beer brand that is meant to be “enjoyed irresponsibly.”

The new beer with the “irresponsible” branding is being launched by Tom McCole, one of the co-founders Major League Socks.

McCole said the idea for Cold Ones came to him late last summer, when he was hospitalized with what was later diagnosed as Lyme disease.

“I ended up on some heavy medication for a month and I couldn’t drink any alcohol,” he said. “I started to explore the non-alc beers. There was a ton of great products out there, but never felt there was a brand that spoke to me.”

They felt too refined and maybe even pretentious for a drink that was supposed to be about good times. “I felt the non-alc market was missing a bit of fun,” he said.

McCole and his co-founding partner, Alexander Rickett, worked with Wunderman Thompson to create that fun brand.

How: In a press release introducing Cold Ones, McCole says: “The best thing about beer has never been the alcohol, it’s the ritual.” They want to show how the fun times and good memories typically associated with beer marketing can be enjoyed with Cold Ones.

To that end, Wunderman Thompson avoided a typical uniform design system, opting instead to put different photos of real people doing beer-like things—barbeques, hanging out on a fire escape, a kitchen party. The only constant is the Cold Ones word-mark, which converts the double Os into zeroes to highlight the 0% alcohol content.

They hope to have dozens of different versions in market at launch, so people can see themselves reflected in the product, said Wunderman Thompson CCO Air Elkouby. “We wanted to playfully capture the moments people associate with drinking beer and bring them into the non-alcoholic space for the first time.”

But isn’t beer sometimes about the alcohol? “Being a non-alcoholic brand doesn’t mean we’re anti-alcohol,” said Elkouby. “When we say it’s never been about the alcohol, we mean that we believe that alcohol is not a requirement for having fun, whether that’s today or back in the day.

“The most important thing is your mindset and the moments you create, not the [alcohol] percentage of the drink in your hand.”

Changing drinking culture: McCole knows that alcohol is a huge part of social culture in Canada. “Some of my fondest memories involve drinking, but certainly not all of them,” he said. “The only constant is good company.”

He said that Cold Ones puts the focus on the ritual of opening a cold one when you’re having a good time with friends, rather than the alcohol.

McCole has been drinking 0% beer and consuming less alcohol for a little over a year now. “I’m healthier and happier, and have sacrificed zero adventure because of it,” he said. “I’m not here to cancel ‘drinking culture,’ I just hope to improve it.”

David Brown