Molson Coors Social Media Strategy Starts Bitter but has a Smooth Finish

Candace Berner-Rubie    October 15, 2013

Molson Coors logo

It could be argued that consumer social media has become a bit of an art, with companies scrambling over all the social media chatter to be noticed and to engage their target markets in meaningful interactions and relationships.

In Lauren McKay’s article “Transparency“, she argues that the adoption of social media by the corporate world “not only increases transparency, but helps customers see that the organization is more than one-dimensional or monolithic: There are actual people behind the products.”

McKay also tells the story of how Unilever undermined the good will it had built up with the Dove brand through its “Campaign for Real Beauty” by using sexually scandalous ads for one of its other brands targeted to the male demographic, specifically Axe\Lynx.  Consumers labelled Unilever as hypocritical, demonstrating the fine line that companies must tread in their efforts to market products and establish relationships with consumers.

A case in point

“We are all members of a larger community which depends on everyone playing a part.” ~ John Molson, 1825.

John Molson

For beer company Molson Coors, they adopted social media early on in the social media craze as a means to connect with their target market of young Canadians and establish relationships with the brand.

“We need to be communicating with our customers [in social media] because that’s where they communicate between themselves.  We need to make sure we are in that relevant channel,” said Ferg Devins, VP, Government and Public Affairs, Molson Coors Canada.

As it happens, their introduction to social media was a case of trial by fire.  In 2007, Molson Coors made its first foray into the social media space with its “Cold Shot” Facebook campaign, targeted to the 19-24 year-old age group, most of whom attended post-secondary institutions.  The campaign was based around students posting pictures of themselves and friends in “full party mode”.  One school would be crowned as “best party school” and a trip to Cancun, Mexico would be awarded to the individual from that school with the best picture.  They also had a “party finder” app., where students could post events. 

Two major issues were raised by this campaign from students and universities alike:

  1. They overlooked the associated privacy risks of encouraging the distribution of what could be distasteful content on a very public site, Facebook.
  2. The content goes again Molson Coors’ established ethics of safe and responsible drinking.Facebook.

Molson Coors took away some important lessons from their first social media experience and developed a new go-forward strategy. 

Jonathan Kash (Pistachio Consulting) made an interesting observation about the beer industry: “Beer is a social commodity. Maintaining good relations with the community drives the business.”

You could say that Molson Coors embraced this philosophy and has since used social media to communicate about its community support, to create ongoing awareness around responsible drinking and the importance of an active lifestyle, and to establish relationships with Canadians across the country. 

A few examples of how Molson Coors uses social media to reach out to and interact with consumers include:

While Molson Coors had a rough start that resembled the trouble Unilever encountered with its hypocritical approach to marketing, it has taken big steps towards actively engaging the community and increasing awareness about active lifestyles and drinking responsibly.  Social media tools are playing a large part in achieving these goals and will continue to do so as the Web 2.0 social media world continues to evolve.

Lessons learned

A few take-aways from Molson Coors’ experience with using social media to connect with and engage Canadians:

  1. If you don’t succeed at first, try again!  Determine what worked, what didn’t, and forge ahead in a new social media strategy direction.
  2. Social engagement with consumers is about establishing relationships, not about directly influencing financial returns.
  3. Stay true to your organization’s ethics.  In Molson Coors’ case, that is encouraging responsible drinking and active lifestyles, and being a positive contributor to the community.




Molson Coors

Molson Coors Case: Social Media Strategy

Molson Coors: Brewing Up Success with Social Media

John Molson image

Submitted by: Candace Berner-Rubie – SMBP Student, University of Waterloo.

If you have concerns as to the accuracy of anything posted on this site, please send your concerns to Peter Carr, Program Director, Social Media for Business Performance.