Advertising

Case Study series: Dos Equis – a triumph for Creative

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Beer Advertising is perhaps the toughest category to crack. Especially in the US, this along with automobiles, is most cluttered. At least with automobiles, there could be slim chance of a product feature or news to hang on to. But a beer is a beer is a beer, usually. Advertising plays a huge role in terms of enjoyability and memorability. In that context, what Euro RSCG has pulled off for Dos Equis beer is commendable.

The background:
In 2008, there were 261 beer brands advertising on TV in the US. The combined spends were well over US$1 billion. And here was a little known Mexican beer brand called Dos Equis with little or no equity. With little in the way of product differentiation, the only way out was to outwit the competition, not outspend them. Needless to say, the agency had to say something about the brand in advertising. What followed, is not so much a triumph for Planning, but a triumph for the Creative Department. I remember seeing the ad sometime back in one of the ad blogs and was intrigued. Turns out that the advertising is hugely effective: when imported beer sales dropped 11%, sales of Dos Equis rose more than 17%, moving the brand into eighth place among imports.

The big idea:
According to media reports the strategy was to: ..“establish a distinctive, desirable and premium identity as evidenced by significant growth of key brand-tracking measures,” which would, in turn, be “different from other brands,” a “cool brand” and be “worth paying more for.” Sounds pretty generic. The campaign won a Gold at the 2009 Effie Awards and the Case Study document on this campaign offers more information:

Looking at the broad swathe of beer commercials, it becomes apparent that many advertisers believe that images of buxom ladies, tailgating and foaming, frosted glasses are the best way to sell. Even premium brands assume a fairly low degree of intelligence among their audience. (Consumers) were more than a little irked at the clichés and potty humor that are the staple of the category. They felt misrepresented and misunderstood. Probing further, we discovered two important truths: First, what these guys wanted more than anything, more than hot girls and designer toys, was to be seen as interesting. And conversely, that they were terrified of being seen as boring. We sniffed an opportunity.

I don’t know if the strategy was retro-fitted to the creative (believe me, it happens) but the creation of ‘The Most Interesting Man in the World’ is a big leap. A protagonist who looks like being on the wrong side of 60, is actually a spokesperson for 25 & 35 somethings. Part Connery-part Brosnan, a blogger described him thus: he would make the lovechild of James Bond and Hugh Hefner look like a complete douche. Portraying him as a sophisticated dude who leads an adventurous and exotic life, gave the brand a distinct personality. There wasn’t any hard-sell – just entertainment. In fact the ads, end with ‘I don’t always drink beer, but when I do, I prefer Don Equis’.

His other exploits: cavorting in a space capsule, curing narcolepsy. There are short films with his take on Rollerblading (‘No’), mixed nuts and careers, among others.

Some of the one-liners in these ads are cheesy but laugh-out loud:

He once had an awkward moment. Just to see how it feels.
He lives vicariously through himself.
The police often question him just because they find him interesting.
His organ donation card also lists his beard.

The tag line ‘Stay thirsty, my friends’ conveys this unending quest for the most interesting things in life. His pearls of wisdom were also seen in static media.

Dos Equis.jpg

The execution

Apart from the TV campaign, the online exercise is elaborate. One could test ones skills online – for example, arm wrestling with Winston Churchill (!). And the Most Interesting Academy with tips to various things in life, including Cooking. The humour continues there with stuff like:

There is no excuse for not knowing how to cook, whether it be for your own survival in the Arctic tundra, or the entertainment of a bevy of Danish supermodels in your flat. The key to culinary explorations is taking seemingly mundane ingredients and combining them to form a work of genius… and not dying along the way. Knowing which ingredients to use is vital. For instance, when traveling in the wilds of Borneo or West Virginia, you need to know if certain plants are edible or poisonous, and if that odd morsel you find on the ground is meat or is the complete opposite of meat.

There is an Apprenticeship Programme, complete with details of the courses (Circumnavigating the Globe, Art of the Bluff, Command of the Animal Kingdom) and rankings. For the question, ‘In an uncomfortable situation, what should you do?’, the top ranking apprentice has this as an answer: Immediately negate it with your presence.

The idea has been brought to life below-the-line too: The search for
the Most Interesting Man’s new assistant is an ambitious below-the-line program that furthers the brand’s mission of making their drinkers’ lives more interesting. The six-month program invites brand fans to prove their mettle, competing for the honor of becoming his assistant along with a cameo appearance in a 2009 TV spot.
There were also OOH campaigns, events, In-Bar activations, Digital Partnerships with Facebook, Break.com etc.

The campaign won a Gold at the 2009 Effie Awards. You can download the Effice case study here.

Observations:

It isn’t always about what you say: The best creative minds are usually great planners. With Dos Equis the creative team has taken a seemingly generic strategy and turned it into an interesting, memorable and effective campaign. How they said it became more important than what they said. One doesn’t always get this lucky – a sharp, clear direction on what is to be said is usually required for great advertising.

Make it work beyond TV: while TV is still the most effective medium, bringing the idea alive beyond TV is important.

Perseverance pays: there was some chatter on the Net about the campaign being irritating and just another ‘Macho Man’ ad. But they pressed on with the idea and turned a just another beer brand into a classy, desirable one.

Any thoughts on the Dos Equis campaign?

This is the first in the Case Study series – a look at interesting, successful campaigns. Do let me have your comments, views and suggestions.

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A marketing communications professional with a keen interest in all things advertising. I share creative ads and views on the ad industry here. Views are personal. See Disclaimer for more.

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