With Canada Day still fresh in our minds and we wanted to pause and reflect on Joe. Remember Joe? Remember his rant? Remember how popular it was? Remember this was the second go around for Molson’s “I Am Canadian” marketing campaign? Didn’t think so.
The original campaign was developed in the mid 90’s. It worked well, doing its job increasing sales, but by the end of the decade it began to fade. The original creative for the campaign focused on images of young Canadians. No models, just many “real” Canadians, keeping it real. At the turn of the century a new agency took the reins and made some small tweaks. They kept the “I Am” tagline but gave it a singular, defined, powerful voice. Rather than using random images of Canadian youth, they combined them into one iconic man: Joe. And he had something to say. He was no longer content with being ridiculed for his Canadian-ness. He was a man, he was proud of his country, he was proud of his heritage and ultimately, he was proud of his damn beer.
The choice to define a Canadian was a powerful one. Joe epitomized the Molson Canadian beer-drinker: proud, hardworking, proud, intelligent and attractive, and oh yeah, proud. He was Everyman: every guy related to him, every girl thought he was sexy and he was tired of being thought of as inferior to his American neighbour. His patriotism shone through in his speech perfectly (even if it was delivered by an American actor); we can wave flags just as much as Americans, and our beer rocks.
The success of the campaign was staggering. The commercial was a huge success, instantly becoming viral and morphing into other successful (moderately more violent) versions of Canadian pride: a quiet office worker beats the tar out of his American visitor for mocking him or the attack of the pet beaver in the bar also become very popular.
Instead of ignoring Canadian stereotypes the commercials reveled in them. They highlighted everything we are and should be proud of, including that big, bold, red maple leaf. Everything that differentiated us from America united us as being Canadian. “The Rant” took pride in every preconception of Canadian heritage and used it to our advantage. Even the tagline was brilliant in its simplicity. It wasn’t “I am Canadian”. No, it was “I AM. Canadian.” Strong, proud and we’ll kick your ass if you don’t like it. That’s good marketing. That’s good beer.
In retrospect the primary difference between the initial “I AM” campaign and the second was a simple choice in communication styles: use of a passive voice versus active voice. The first go around wanted to hear from Canadians and let them define Canada, ultimately watering down the message. The second knew who Canadians were, how they were feeling and spoke for them, in one focused voice. In creative marketing you need to know your audience, you need to define your message and it’s always better to be heard.