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Case Study: Molson Coors Brewing Company

Molson Coors Brewing Company has been brewing since 1786 and produces some of North America's most popular brands of beer, including Molson Canadian, Coors Light, Molson Export, Molson Dry, and Rickard's. They are also partnered with worldwide labels such as Heineken, Corona, Miller Genuine Draft, Foster's Lager, and Tiger.

After Molson's merger with Coors in 2005, the company went from being purely Canadian to 50% U.S. owned, with headquarters in Montreal and in Denver, Colorado. Being Canada's oldest brewery and using the slogan "I am Canadian," suddenly Molson Canadian stopped looking so patriotic in the eyes of the consumers who felt a sense of national pride beaming from each maple-leaf-boasting bottle.

With this new identity crisis, the public and media struggled with their perception of the brand. Molson's chief public affairs officer, Ferg Devins, said that this became the best time to start telling their company's story. In 2007, they launched the "Molson in the Community" blog and began covering all aspects relating to the business, the industry, their 3,000 employees, partnerships, and consumers online (see Figure 4.6).

Figure 4.6

Figure 4.6 The Molson Coors in the Community blog.

Hosting a blog for a beer company does have its challenges and requires effort in moderating comments and content in a tactful manner. Devins explains the types of comments the company holds for moderation given the nature of the industry: "We need to make sure that there's no one talking about excessive consumption or under-legal drinking age consumption."

The blog created by Molson made the company approachable to many online, which caused a few problems in terms of customer feedback. They were seeing a trend where consumers were leaving comments when they had a general company inquiry. In these cases, Molson was able to funnel these messages to the appropriate department in the company.

Tonia Hammer, Molson's community relations coordinator, uses Google Alerts along with Truecast and Radian6 to scan the Internet for mentions of their products or brands. Using these tools to monitor incoming links and mentions online, the company came across some backlash online regarding its nationwide blogger outreach campaign, Brew 2.0.

Brew 2.0 was an event held in various cities across the nation where bloggers were invited to a Molson brewery for an evening of beer education. The event received high praise from participants and throughout the online media sphere. The company's intentions, however, were questioned on several blogs, which truly put Molson's social media practices to the test. Having set up alerts so that they can be notified of mentions online, Molson was able to find the discussions and chime in, officially. In particular, one blogger questioned not only the process Molson used to create their invite list for the Brews 2.0 events, but also their commercial motives.

"What it really came down to in the end was the particular people that were criticizing what we had done [with Brew 2.0]," says Devins. "They had this position that we reached out to the wrong people and that it was too strategic."

Adam Moffat, manager, marketing and brand public relations, explains how Molson addressed these concerns in the blogosphere. "We don't want to get pulled into an argument—there's no hope of changing [the author's] opinion; we just wanted to provide clarity on information that they misunderstood, being transparent about what our goal was for this activity." Devins adds that public responses should always be deferential. "If it's opinion, we'll counter with our opinion, but we'll also be respectful to people being entitled to their opinion." However, when it comes down to the straight facts about their company, "if someone's got information that they're transmitting wrongfully, or they're not on the mark, or it's not fact-based—we will definitely come in hard with facts," says Devins.

In this case, Moffat noted that one of the most gratifying parts of being transparent and addressing these concerns online is that Brew 2.0 participants can find these discussions and are able to band together, defending the company simply because they believe in the goals of their online community.

Molson believes that the successful Brew 2.0 event helped them bridge a gap between consumer and company and connected online entities. Devins describes it as going beyond blogging and "into a broader scope of business."

The Molson in the Community blog has also become a tool for employee engagement, and as Devins notes, "It's reaching out to our people at the field level. From the ground up, not from the corner suite."

Blog posts nurture the pride and engagement of the employees, sharing what they do in the field and building the corporate community though this online platform. "Employees across the country are able to tell their story and what they're doing in the community through the blog," said Moffatt. With this outlet, "We're just really doing a better job of publicizing the great work that's being done within our walls, but also out in the community by our employees."

Sample blog posts include "Eric Molson Retires After 50 Years at Canada's Brewery," "The Beer Store Bottle Drive For Leukemia May 23–24," "Calgary Sales Team Plays Their Part at Calgary Inter-Faith Food Bank." They even offer up their blog to guest posts, such as the entry, "A Post by Marcy Robertson, YMCA Relationship Development Manager."

Since hosting Brew 2.0, Molson has become involved with the global Twestival event (which raised $250,000 through Twitter in more than 200 cities), and have signed on to be a part of a social media strategy for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.

Sharing stories online with the blog goes beyond the walls of the company. "[The blog] has given us more breadth and depth with respect to our philanthropic effort because we're able to tell and share a story," says Devins. "It's humanizing our company and it's humanizing our brand," adds Moffatt.

"No longer do consumers want that faceless monolith preaching at them," says Moffat. They want to feel closer to brands and companies, and certainly given that our company is a social one in its roots and DNA, it certainly just makes a lot of sense that we act in this way."

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