Grand Marketer of the Year ’08: Andy England, Coors

Earlier this year, Andy England was deposed for eight hours by the Department of Justice. The CMO of Coors Brewing was one of many top-level executives grilled about a variety of potential antitrust issues leading up to the merger of MolsonCoors and rival SABMiller.

Amid the proceedings, an unusual document came to light. The female justice slid a memo from one of England’s senior technical people across the table. “Are you familiar with this? Do you remember receiving this e-mail?” England recalled her asking him.

The subject of the memo: “Space Beer.” The ploy of sending yeast into orbit on a space shuttle and bringing it back to Earth was one of the literally thousands of ideas England and his team had come up with since he joined the company in February 2006.

“They were very amused. She had to know if we’d done ‘space beer,'” he said. England’s team never did get around to brewing any cosmic Coors.

The DOJ proceedings went off without a hitch. The deal was approved in June. England, 44, is now in charge of not only marketing Coors’ entire line-up of beers (Coors Light, Coors Banquet, Blue Moon and Keystone Light), he also inherited Miller Brewing’s roster, which includes long-time foes Miller Lite and Miller High Life.

England’s openness to new ideas, especially on the packaging front, is one of the reasons that the Coors portfolio continues to succeed in a down economy and why England was named lead marketer for the MillerCoors juggernaut.

Trucking Along
As the beer category has remained flat for much of this decade, Coors Brewing’s second quarter sales to retailers, premerger, were up 5.1%, per Beer Marketer’s Insights, West Nyack, N.Y., the industry bible. “Coors keeps trucking along. They have four very healthy brands that have been outperforming the category for some time,” said Benj Steinman, editor of the publication.

Coors Banquet sales volume rose 5.3% to 1.2 million barrels in 2007. It was one of the only top domestic full-calorie beers from a big brewer to actually grow last year. Coors Light jumped 3.6% to 17.3 million barrels. Both were on a similar pace for the first half of 2008. Meanwhile, its smaller brands, Blue Moon and Keystone Light, rose 66.7% to 750,000 barrels and 10.9% to 3.5 million barrels, respectively.

It isn’t just the open-mindedness of England and his team that has led to this success. In fact, it is more of closed-mindedness. Once a brand positioning is decided upon, the Coors team hammers it home to the point that the consumer can’t help but understand the brand’s attribute. Coors Light is “The World’s Most Refreshing Beer” while Coors Banquet is all about the brand’s blue-collar heritage (see sidebar story, page 6).

“Andy continuously pushes his marketing team to use consumer research to find a brand’s unique positioning and stick to that positioning in every touchpoint,” said Lee Dolan, vp of Coors family of brands. “Our positioning is always based on true brand benefits. In the case of Coors Light, our frost brewed process is one of our cold refreshment proof points. He’s got a great, dry British sense of humor, even when he’s relentlessly pounding brand positioning into our heads.”

Such positioning wasn’t all that complex. After researching the matter, the company decided that Coors Light should “own” refreshment, hardly a breakthrough idea in beer marketing. But the execution was another matter. The word “relentless” was used time and again to describe England’s singular focus on a consistent brand message. Meanwhile, England channeled his innovative instincts into tweaking the packaging.

Two such innovations, Coors Light’s Vented Wide Mouth can and Cold Activated bottles, have helped differentiate the brand. The vented can makes for a better pour (see above) while thermochromatic ink—a dye which changes colors when the temperature changes—reveals a blue illustration of the Rocky Mountains when the beer reaching the optimum drinking temperature. “We take what’s out there and make it relative to our brand,” England said. “The inks have been around as long as Tang.”