ONE TWENTY THREE WEST, Vancouver / VANCOUVER ISLAND BREWING / 2020
With more craft breweries popping up on BC’s Pacific Coast, Vancouver Island Brewing (VIB) was getting lost in the sea of island breweries. Despite being Vancouver Island’s longest standing brewery, VIB had fallen from #1 on Vancouver Island down to #4. In the eyes of young craft beer drinkers, VIB was an outdated, stuffy brand for older people. Sales were declining year after year, down 25%—eaten away by Philips Brewery and Hoyne Brewing, with Driftwood Brewery stealing the majority of tap volume.
We needed to reconnect the brand to young locals and cement VIB as “the brewery” of the Island while improving perceptions of the brand through a topical initiative that would resonate with their local community and key target demographic.
The budget was less than $50,000 with no advertising budget or media spend. The original production run was 15,564 x 4 packs = 2,594 cases.
Research had shown that cause marketing and social initiative beers were growing in popularity with this young craft drinking audience. So to become relevant, we couldn’t simply create an advertising campaign.
We needed to find a cause that would resonate with the local community and key demographic, then create a strong connection to VIB with that specific community initiative. So we turned to the orca—an iconic mammal of Vancouver Island, considered by many to be the Island’s unofficial symbol. They’re loved by residents and also a key driver to Island tourism. But since 1995, the Southern Resident Killer Whales had declined by over 20%, totalling only 73 orcas—a 30-year low. This drastic decline had become very topical and contentious news on the coastal islands. So we saw this as an opportunity for VIB to be the brand to stand up for this iconic island mammal.
To raise awareness for the Southern Resident Killer Whales (SRKW), VIB created a 4-pack of special edition beers, with proceeds to help preserve the SRKW population. We worked with marine biologists and learned that each whale had its own identity, name and personality, so we used this as inspiration for our design. Each of the four beers was created to specifically mimic a different orca from the pods—matching their unique eye and saddle patches. We even named each brew after the actual whale the packaging was inspired by. The box was also designed to have a dorsal fin that popped up to reveal a handle.
To make the initiative a true representation of Vancouver Island, VIB collaborated with four local breweries across the Island. Proceeds from the sales of the Pod Pack went towards preserving the wild BC salmon stocks—a vital food source for these whales.
Support for the cause was so high that VIB had to increase production of the Pod Packs—which meant even more awareness and proceeds for the SRKW. The Pod Pack had the highest in-store sampling conversion VIB had ever experienced, and became the most successful seasonal beer for VIB—selling out in half the time expected and requiring three production runs compared to the one originally planned.
What started off as a one-time initiative created so much attention, excitement and consumer demand that the Pod Pack has now become an annual initiative for VIB. With no advertising budget or media spend, it garnered 6 million earned media impressions—making up 60% of VIB’s total earned impressions for 2019.
The huge success of the Pod Pack and VIB’s rebranded position as the defender of our local orcas, trickled over to their other products—increasing sales volume beyond the 25-30% goal.