November 21, 2002
Boon Rawd Brewery is Thailand's traditional family-owned brewer, well known for it's Singha and Leo brands. You cant address board members by their family names, because they are all the same. Ogilvy and Mather's emotion-evoking and image-heavy "traditional values" and "The Thai Beer" campaigns had successfully developed an emotional brand attachment between Thais and their own beer and brewery.
Yet several years back Boon Rawd Brewery found their virtual monopoly of the Thailand beer market eroded fast by newcomers headed by Dutch brew Heineken which performed a masterful sweep into Thailand's valuable beer market. It was a time when global brands were sweeping all before them.
In a knee-jerk response to the invasion of the foreign premium brands, Boon Rawd launched their own "global brand" named "Mittweida". The best that can be said of the launch was that it was a spectacular failure, despite Boon Rawd's well established and efficient distribution network and long established corporate brand equity.
Yesterday the sorry story came to a merciful conclusion when Boon Rawd announced the axing of the Mittweida brand.
But even more interesting for marketers is the replacement for the Mittweida brand. In an agreement with Interbrew NV, Boon Rawd will distribute the Kloster brand in Thailand under license from the Belgian brewer, effectively marketing Kloster as the company's premium brand. The new agreement also transfers Thailand production, distribution and marketing rights for Interbrew's Kloster from Thai Amarit Brewery to Boon Rawd heralding an uncertain future for the former.
Kloster's "Happiness you can drink" brand is a brand that has stood the test of time, despite never challenging old stalwart Singha and newcomers Heineken and Carlsberg for anything close to market leadership over more than a decade.
Even Beer Chang, marketed initially as a premium beer, then as a budget beer sold at 100 Baht (approx USD$2.20) for 3 large bottles targeted at rural beer drinkers and now claimed to be the "Best Selling Thai beer" continues to beat Kloster in the sales game. Albeit, Beer Chang's success has been due to a great extent to package deals from Thailand's "whisky king" who cornered retailers into refusing to sell them the top Thai whisky brands without also buying Chang.
Kloster, despite performing very creditably in taste tests, suffered from poor local distribution and other parts of the marketing mix, despite its high levels of brand recognition and recall.
Market research carried out before the launch of the doomed Mittweida however should have given Boon Rawd a clue. Focus Groups of young middle class Thai beer drinkers in Bangkok and Chiangmai as well as pub intercepts among tourists indicated strongly that Kloster was a high potential brand, but let down by it's availability. Secondly, it suggested that the premium beer market was crowded in terms of brand image. Kloster on the other hand had carved out a brand niche for itself, and on many attributes relating to image and taste, outperformed the market leaders. It was clearly a "sleeper brand" way out of whack with its current market share.
The final finding of the market research was that Thais would react with indifference to a premium brand marketed on country-of-origin attributes that in fact was manufactured and bottled in Thailand. The only real foreign component of Mittweida was a ownership of a small European brewery and the recipe. The image was confused however due to Boon Rawd's strong "Thai" corporate image. Mittweida could not escape from the fact that it was still a Boon Rawd beer, dressed up in European clothes, and Thai consumers proved that they were smarter than some thought.
According to Chutchai Wiratyosin, head of Boon Rawd Trading's Public Relations department, "we hope to boost Kloster's share of the Baht 50 billion (approx. USD$1.15 billion) beer market to 3 to 4% by next year, and will challenge Heineken's (8% market share) in the near future.
Competing brands may not agree yet, but Kloster may just jump up from the banks of the khlong to bite them.Published November 21, 2002 05:24 PM in Thailand
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