Back in 2014, Steinlager was at the centre of a storm. Making up 52 percent of the market, mainstream beer was down 5.2 percent while the new kid on the block—craft beer—was growing by as much as 17.7 percent. Beer, in general, was also losing favour, with 68 percent of marginal drinkers reporting that they “didn’t like the taste of it”, and amid this was Steinlager, whose product was down by 8.2 percent.
Lion also realised that for Steinlager, the generation gap had become a gaping hole. While its ‘New Zealand vs. the world’ positioning was once thought of as bold and defiant, the company found itself at odds with the country’s newest generation who considered themselves citizens of the world. The belief system at the heart of the Steinlager brand (to ‘prove your loyalty to New Zealand’) was no longer cutting it.
“Guys in their early 20s have a very different idea about what they want to drink and the repertoire is so much bigger than it once was,” said Lion marketing manager Michael Taylor back in late 2016.
“Beer hasn’t really been connecting that well with them, and doing the same old thing with beer probably isn’t the way to solve that.”
Faced with a new cultural currency, Lion and its five key agency partners (TRA, DDB, Inhouse Design, Geometry and Zenith Optimedia) worked to create the next big thing for its flagship brand. Underpinned by a deliberately loose and grand business objective, Lion sought to build a vibrant beer culture that would appeal to the latest generation’s aspirations towards creativity and open-mindedness.
“We spent a lot of time talking to young people and asking them what their issues were with beer, and a lot of them said that they found beer too bitter and too heavy,” said Taylor. “And when we asked them what kind of beer they would want to drink, they’d often say that they found Japanese beer quite refined, crisp and lighter.”
Thus, the idea of ‘a beautiful collision’ was born. It meshed Japanese mastery and urbanity with Kiwi purity and inventiveness to produce the ideal beer.
Tokyo Dry became a galvanising force for Steinlager, striking at the heart of a generation who aspired to be citizens of the world.
Lion believed that a beer created by consumers was sure to connect with consumers, which led it to embrace a ‘creationist culture’ founded on the principles of design-led thinking. Championing things like fluidity and collaboration, Lion and its partners worked to create a product and marketing/business strategy that would reflect this new approach.
The campaign, developed by DDB, hurls viewers into a fantastical dance unfolding on the streets of Tokyo. Teeming with origami, bonsai trees, robots, lanterns and sumo wrestlers, it feels more like a music video than a beer ad, with World Hip-Hop champions The Bradas performing a high- energy, anthropomorphic routine.
To complement the exciting visual onslaught on screen, Lion and Inhouse Design developed an aesthetically pleasing packaging style that paid attention to detail, going as far as developing a Hanko (name stamp) which would translate into ‘Lion’. Furthermore, thousands of shopper disruption activities (holograms, light boxes etc.) were activated to capture audience attention, while a branded content campaign consisting of three short documentaries was also launched via youth-oriented media outlet Vice.
Steinlager set out to attract a new generation of drinkers to their brand, and found that with the launch of Tokyo Dry, around 11 percent of sales had come from shoppers who hadn’t purchased in the category in the last three months, while 41 percent of sales came from those additional shoppers’ normal beer purchases. The company also experienced incremental sales of $2.6 million, with share growth going from 0.6 percent to 11.3 percent.
While the beer market remains fiercely competitive with a staggering 1329 new beer launches in the last 12 months, Tokyo Dry was responsible for contributing $4.86 million (or 40 percent) to new product sales.
The launch of Tokyo Dry catapulted Steinlager back into public conversation. Viewers reported a brand recall of 59 percent (the industry norm is 49 percent) and a 13.3 percent uplift against brand metrics, as well as 63 percent of consumers stating that Steinlager was now moving with the times.