Friday, October 21, 2005

Imbibo ergo sum.

What ever happened to Molson Canadian? Remember when they stood astride the beer business in this country like a colossus? They were Canada's Bud. The alpha and omega of beer culture in this country.

Here's the story as I remember it: Molson built the Canadian franchise by being where beer is. If you could think of a place where beer belonged, Molson made sure that Canadian was the brand you pictured there. There was hockey, and then there were bars with girls in them, and then there were concerts. And then, having planted their flag in every inhabited corner of the beer experience, they started to make up new ones. The internet, rock concerts north of the arctic circle, that kind of thing. They colonized and evangelized, and it all reached its apex with an ad campaign that branded not just the beer but the feeling of being where the beer was, the existential yawp "I am.” A battle cry for the plaid flannel Cartesian in all of us.

And then, in an effort to top it, some well meaning, espresso-addled ad agency prodigy lit upon the obvious:

"I am.”

“Canadian.”

“Hey, wait... I am Canadian!" Remove the period, make it one sentence, high fives and off to lunch.

The incredible shrinking beer brand announced its decline with a famous and culturally important ad campaign (okay, it was an ad) purportedly called "The Rant", in which a defensively whinging young Joe Canadian protests his nationality, presumably in the face of advancing American cultural imperialism. It struck a nerve. By gum, that guy is right, we all said. We are Canadian. High fives and off to Tim Horton's.

Joe neglected to mention beer in any substantial way. In fact, the whole thing was a bit serious-minded for beer, however culturally relevant. More of a rye moment, really. In needlessly reminding us who were are, Molson had generously given its brand back to the nation. It had camouflaged its name behind the vastly larger and more important idea from which it drew its inspiration. Poof. Gone. The problem, you see, is that we were eloquently reminded that Canadians are people, not beers. You and I can't actually HAVE Canadians in our fridges.

That would be, like, cannibalism or something.

Today, Molson Canadian, culturally at least, stands astride the beer business like a washed up AHL defenceman eking out a living as a WalMart greeter. I hear they're even giving it away, having ingeniously figured out how to stuff four extra bottles into the box for the same price. Tragic.

I’m just relieved that it was Molson that pulled this stunt and not Labatt with their Blue brand. What Molson did for nationalism, Labatt might have done for chronic moodiness instead.

Nobody would wear that t-shirt.

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