Monday, 14 May 2012
Très sophistiquè - A Brand Spotlight by Craig Cawkwell
Stella Artois has a rich advertising history, having produced some of the most memorable campaigns in recent years. However, negative connotations with the brand in 2007 led to a complete reform in communications targeted towards UK consumers. The turnaround was impressive and has resulted in a brand image that can only be described as ‘très sophistiquè’ (my attempt at French).
From 1982-2007, all Stella Artois communications within the UK centred on the slogan ‘Reassuringly Expensive’ – a campaign produced by Frank Lowe. This in itself was an extremely bold and clever campaign, choosing to turn a substantial negative (a higher price due to the greater duty on high-alcohol beverages in the UK) into a positive, by assuring customers that the higher price represented greater ‘quality’ than cheaper alternatives.
Early communications were primarily print ads, but in 1990 a chance viewing of Jean de Florette (a French historical drama) led one of Lowe's creative directors to pen a script based on a similar concept. The resulting television and cinema advertisement, Jacques de Florette, proved immensely popular and formed the basis for a series of award-winning adverts produced between 1991 and 2001, including Good Samaritan, Last Orders and Returning Hero. These ads were extremely popular due to their successful fusion of humour and beautifully shot imagery and remain extremely influential today.
Despite the long running success of the ‘Reassuringly Expensive’ campaign, Stella Artois’ image started to drastically change in the eyes of British consumers. Due to its higher alcohol content, Stella Artois developed a reputation for making its drinkers aggressive. This, coupled with the brand’s popularity amongst football hooligans and binge-drinkers, meant that violence soon became associated with the brand, eventually earning Stella Artois the unwanted nickname of ‘Wife-Beater’. This was of course extremely detrimental to the brand and highlighted the necessity for Stella Artois to produce a campaign which would remove these negative associations.
The brand’s initial response was to drop the word ‘Stella’ (the UK’s adopted slang term for the lager) from its communications and remove the slogan ‘Reassuringly Expensive’. In 2008 the brand then chose to release a campaign aimed at informing customers that only four ingredients were used to make the lager. However, this did fairly little to remove the negative stereotype associated with the product.
As a result, the ‘She is a thing of beauty’ campaign was produced, which helped reposition the brand as cool, elegant, and sophisticated – a far cry from anything associated with angry drinkers and wife-beating. The first set of TV ads focused on the Stella Artois chalice, something which now personifies the brand ethos. Throughout the campaign, the importance of preparation was highlighted, with the nine-step pouring ritual being likened to a beautiful woman getting ready before an evening out.
As new products were launched within the Stella brand, a similarly elegant, sophisticated styled advertising strategy was used, helping to sustain this new found ‘chic’ personality. This is demonstrated no more so than in the ads for Stella Artois 4% which have firmly established the brand as being too-cool-for-school. These ads all generally follow the same story – everyday guy (although he is always ruggedly handsome) is ‘filtered’ three times, each time becoming more suave, debonair and cool. However, it is the way in which these ads are created which has made them irresistible to the audience. The sixties aesthetic provides the visually stunning, ultra-sophisticated theme (which works extremely well both on TV / Cinema spots and Outdoor) whilst the lavish locations and excessively attractive leads serve to keep the audience interested. Finally, this is topped off by the sexy French voiceover which delivers the metaphoric tagline ‘Triple Filtered with a Smooth Outcome’.
More recent Stella Artois products have also adopted the overarching brand’s smooth and sophisticated personality. Firstly, the campaign for Stella Artois Cidre once again utilised a sixties feel, this time presenting the ultra cool Le Président cheekily explaining to British consumers that it is not Cider, it is Cidre. These ads are again extremely strong visually, carrying forward the now well established tradition of Stella Artois communications.
Another of the brand’s new products, Stella Artois Black, has taken the idea of strong visuals one step further by staging a number of live role-play events, the latest being ‘Black Diamond’ – a live version of a classic film noir movie set in sixties Paris, engaging attendees by making them part of the story
It can be safely assumed that despite very few negative stereotypes ever fully disappearing, the recent campaigns by Stella Artois have proved how influential well-thought out communications can be in altering public opinion.
Now that’s a smooth outcome!