When Colenso picked up DB's Export account off Saatchi & Saatchi in July last year, the family of beers was losing relevance and needed a fresh approach. So, to try and reverse the decline, the new coupling went back in time and found the solution sitting right in front of them.
One of the reasons DB shifted the account to Colenso was as a result of a strategic decision to spread its brands across different partners. Saatchi's also takes care of the Tui and Heineken brands and, as you'd expect, DB's consumer marketing manager Rene de Monchy says something of a "natural order" had developed. But, after a bit of soul-searching and research, the brand is now being relaunched to mark the 50th anniversary of DB Export with new packaging, an old beer and a big-budget, historical 90 second commercial set in the 1960s (as well as a five minute short film that will be available online) to celebrate the achievements of its creator, the pioneering brewer, serial inventor and crafty bugger known as Morton Coutts.
The new campaign about the story behind the creation of DB Export is about as far away as you can get from recent Export ads featuring gangs of boozing, smiling, scantily clad young things jumping over fences in slow motion. Colenso's executive creative director Nick Worthington says this was quintessential beer advertising of yore, where you created something entertaining, hooked them young and then hoped they'd grow old with you, in a similar fashion to banks.
Because of this by the numbers approach, he says Export "had got lost", which was proven after a nationwide roadtrip by Colenso's researchers to gauge feelings towards the brand found that consumers in the heartland where most of the product was actually consumed didn't think it was talking to them (the phrase lesbian beer, whatever that means, was mentioned). Many of them also thought it didn't have a story. To them, Export was some flash Auckland beer that was invented by a marketing department, which shows how far the brand had moved away from its roots.
Worthington says tapping into the beer's heritage is a long play, not a quick fix, and as well as telling Coutts' "untold story" through the commercial and short film (it was filmed at MOTAT in Auckland, made by Revolver and goes to air on 7 October), it is also bringing back the original 5.35 percent beer in quart-sized DB Export ABC bottles, replete with its 60s branding. Around 100,000 two-packs will be sold through supermarkets and specialist stores, while individual quart bottles are being sold at 300 bars nationwide.
The beer’s history will also be on the packaging. And it is a pretty cool story: Coutts' great grandfather, Friedrich Kuhtze, was a brewmaster in Germany. His grandfather, Joseph Freidrich Kuhtze, left Germany to pioneer beer brewing in Dunedin in 1857. And his father, W. Joseph Coutts established the Main Trunk Brewery in Taihape in 1908, which he ran for eleven years until becoming incapacitated in the 1919 influenza epidemic. That year, the 13-year-old Morton took over the brewing responsibilities.
By the time he was 24 he’d built the Waitemata Brewery, which is still home to Dominion Breweries. But the Export story starts in 1958, when the then finance minister and ‘puritanical bore’ Arnold Nordmeyer outraged New Zealand with his so-called Black Budget, "a miserly piece of work that taxed the importation of the world’s best beers so heavily that no ordinary man could afford to drink them".
After Nordmeyer's budget, Coutts set about making a New Zealand beer that would win the Brewers Championship Challenge Cup, which was awarded to the best beer in the world in any class at the Olympics of beer brewing, the International Brewing Awards. And because the beer, which he tagged DB Export, was to be created in New Zealand, it would therefore escape Nordmeyer’s import duty.
Thankfully, Coutts had devised a world-first brewing method known as ‘continuous fermentation’, which was decades ahead of its time (in fact, Budweiser claimed to have come up with a new technique in the 1990s, until it checked the patent books and found one M. Coutts had thought of it way back in the 1950s). In the year of its release in 1960, DB Export won a gold at the awards. But he spent the next eight years refining the lager and eventually reached his goal in 1968 when it took the best beer in the world title.
DB Export was the precursor to Export 33, Export Gold and Export Dry (which, in 1994, won the same honour as DB Export). Strangely, Worthington says the sons had become fatherless. But Dad's back for a while (and maybe for longer depending on how sales go) and to celebrate the family has been given a make-over.
The beer inside remains the same but Export Gold has graduated from a stubbie to a long-neck bottle and its packaging has also been redesigned by Dow Design. Export Dry now sports a look that matches its "international status" and is now also available in a 15 pack. A focus on the original budget-beating vision: ‘Let nothing come between a man and a great beer’ has also been incorporated as a slogan alongside the DB logo, as has a copy of Morton’s signature.
“The new design-led look and feel reflects Export’s place in the modern market, while simultaneously emphasising its proud heritage – things our drinkers tell us they value," Dave Shoemack, DB Export's marketing manager, says.
The website (and so the commercial/film) doesn't go live until next week. But when it does, you can check it out here. And you can also check out DB Export on what the young kids apparently now call the F-Cloud.