How can this historical regression of an iconic brand be explained? The answer is to be found in major strategic errors which affected the brand's identity. To understand the situation one has to see it from three angles.
Firstly, the pedigree of the brand: Kronenbourg has its roots in bars, in small cafés, in popular spots and conviviality. One may recall the 1980 campaign, "Faites mousser les bons moments ("Whip up the good times"), followed by that of the 90's with the "Kro" waiters.
Kronenbourg is a people's beer but shared by all segments of the population.
Then two facts concerning the beer market:
- A downward trend in consumption;
- The emergence of private brands in a market previously dominated by domestic brands
- Choosing to change the dominant color of the packaging: the colour of the Kronenbourg pack, in the consumer's mind, is red. A marketing manager thought the colour red had been pre-empted by the Value Brands (such as Top Budget at Intermarché, for example) and that, faced with the private brand threat, it was necessary to "rise in the ranks". The Kronenbourg pack then become grey (colour perceived as more qualitative) with touches of red (not to confuse the consumer). Kronenbourg abandoned its colour code in a bid to up-grade: consumers were completely disoriented...
- The shape of the bottle: the Kronenbourg bottle is narrow and tall. Its difference in the market resides in its form (created in 1997) - which gives Kronenbourg a certain elegance. Now (maybe) the same marketing manager thought the times called for sustainable development and so the weight of the bottle had to be reduced (which at the same time lowered the cost of raw materials and transportation..). The Kronenbourg bottle thus became more squat, more "clumsy".... resembling the bottles of some private brands.
I draw two key lessons for brands from this example:
- Packaging is an element that is essential for the identity and image of a brand - in the eyes of consumers. But too often the responsibility of packaging is delegated to product managers who do not always have the necessary culture: this aspect should be the responsibility of the brand manager (of course it's less sexy than advertising...)
- In the fight against private brands, one should not do just anything: one must find the roots of the brand and modernize them. One must build on the brand and its strengths: "The market cannot be divided into premium beers, special or specialties, but into brands. If Kronenbourg does well, then premium goes well. If 1664 goes well, the specials go well", said Thomas Amstutz, the new CEO of Kronenbourg. The new management at Kronenbourg is going in the right direction because red is being used again and the slender bottle will be making a comeback....