Not so sweet: DB and Colenso call on international talent to launch cider aimed at blokes

While there’s plenty of growth in the local cider market, it’s still suffering from a bit of an image problem, particularly among Kiwi men who prefer beverages on the drier side of the scale.

“The biggest barrier for males to drinking cider is that it’s too sweet,” says Sean O’Donnell, the head of domestic beer and cider at DB Breweries. 

This perception has led to the cider market in New Zealand lagging well behind international markets in terms of household penetration. 

“At the moment only one in four Kiwi adults drink cider. And if you compare that to the UK or Australia where 60 to 70 percent of the population drink cider, there’s clearly huge growth opportunity for the category [in the local market].”

Because men have shied away from cider, O’Donnell says it has become pigeonholed as a feminine drink, often typified by “pink and colourful” branding.

This is a clear reference to the Rekorderlig brand, which DB acquired the license for when it bought a major shareholding in Redwood Cellars in 2009 (it also owned the Old Mout brand). 

“We think there’s more to the cider market than Rekorderlig. It’s a great brand, but it’s just one brand and we think the category can be opened to all consumers.”
And the principle target among these consumers is Kiwi men.   

“I think New Zealand is the only cider market in the world where we have more female consumers than male consumers,” says O’Donnell. “And that’s because in all the other cider markets there’s always been a hero cider brand targeted at males, and it’s generally been stronger.”

This, of course, didn’t happen over night. The positioning of cider as a more feminine drink has been established over time, with brands catering their products specifically to the female demographic. 

So, 18 months ago, O’Donnell and his team at DB Breweries contacted Colenso BBDO and set about developing a new cider product that matched the taste preferences of male consumers and which also had a visual identity that would stand out on supermarket and liquor store shelves. 

“We started by looking at names and concepts, and then once we landed on Old Mout Hard cider, we took a range of liquids and tested that at a quantitative level with a significant number of consumers. We tested three different versions and made some subtle changes to make sure we had something that consumers would like. It’s been one of the more extensive research projects we’ve run.”

The result is a dry cider presented in packaging that would be more akin to that usually found in the beer section. 

“We feel we’ve now got a product that will really engage males,” says O’Donnell. 

But creating the product was only part of the challenge. DB still needed to convince consumers that this cider isn’t simply the latest variant of liquefied sugar. 

And to this, O’Donnell briefed Colenso BBDO to develop a campaign that would cut through to Kiwi blokes and persuade them to try the new cider. 

“For us this wasn’t about advertising,” says Colenso creative Simon Vicars. “It was about disrupting a behaviour. A huge part of the drinking demographic doesn’t consume this category, so our job was really to make them drink cider again. We had a compelling message in that we knew that they were waiting for a cider that wasn’t too sweet. We just needed a compelling way to deliver it to the audience.”

Borrowing from the premise of the film Stranger than Fiction, the ad features the action taking place in a bar being narrated unseen omniscient voice that all the characters can hear.

Vicars says that core concept of the idea came from ‘The Gunfighter’ clip starring Nick Offerman and shot by LA-based director Eric Kissack (who has also worked on The Dictator and Horrible Bosses 2).

“It’s funny how the creative process works,” says Vicars. “We often see things that influence us. And in the lead up we saw The Gunfighter and loved the short film.”

This admiration eventually extended into collaboration, as Vicars and the creative team at Colenso were able to work with Kissack on developing the ad campaign for the Old Mout Hard cider launch.  

“We got on the phone with Eric, sent scripts to him and he was really keen. We loved his comedic timing and the quality of all his work, so it was a coup to get him … To do the best work, you have to work with the best people and Eric was definitely our first choice.”

The production process for the ad took place in Los Angeles, and Vicars says it proved quite a challenge to find Kiwi talent in the city.   

“Our main talent Cameron [Jones] is a Kiwi up in LA. We knew he was up there, but we also had to put the casting call out in LA for New Zealanders. And it’s incredible how many people think they’re Kiwis when there’s money involved. We sat for about two hours through accent assassinations.”

Much like the packaging and the brand identity, the final ad feels more like a beer ad than one that would be associated with a cider—and Colenso business director Brodie Reid says this was an intentional move. 

“Strategically, we wanted to take what has been done with the formulation of the liquid and the packaging and build on that in terms of acting differently and normalising cider and making it more permissible for guys to hold and drink,”  she says.

Reid adds that the decision to run the campaign on television was made in order to reach as many people as possible. 

“The key reason we used TV was because it had to be disruptive. We’re trying to get a bunch of people who would otherwise not consider trying cider, so it’s got to be disruptive enough to get a lot of people to try it.” 

Back in March, DB Breweries chief executive Andy Routley predicted the cider market would double over the next five years. And by investing substantially in this new product, the company is hedging its bets on this growth coming to fruition.   

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