When Michelle St. Jacques stepped into the role of chief marketing officer for Molson Coors last February, she was served a curve ball on day one. Just the day before, Bud Light had run a snarky ad in the Super Bowl pointing out that the company’s two biggest brands are made with corn syrup.
So St. Jacques moved quickly. The company responded nimbly to the “corn-troversy,” as it came to be known, playfully countering the misconception that Bud Light’s ads created and returning with a few jabs of their own. There’s no corn syrup in the final product, Molson Coors explained—it’s all fermented into alcohol. It’s simply a different source of sugar.
That all led to a lawsuit which Molson Coors ultimately lost in at the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in May of this year, but the back and forth gave St. Jacques the opportunity to push Molson Coors’ brands to the front of consumers’ minds just before launching Coors Light’s new “Made to Chill” campaign last summer.
The experience, she said, served as a training ground for the chaos to come in 2020. Adweek caught up with St. Jacques to discuss what’s been a very busy year for Molson Coors, which has launched two seltzer brands and created more than 30 ad campaigns over the course of 2020 that weren’t on the books before the pandemic changed the entire cultural landscape in March. With a strategy that she describes as “fast, messy, awesome,” St. Jacques worked tirelessly this year to move at the speed of culture and interact authentically with consumers and fans.
The following has been edited for clarity and brevity.
Adweek: Coming to the end of 2020, what are your big takeaways from this year?
Michelle St. Jacques: In a year like 2020, which has obviously been unprecedented on all fronts, it’s been really amazing to see kind of how the business and brands have persevered throughout it. You can look at a moment like this and say, “This is a disaster, what do I do?” Or you can look at it as an awesome opportunity—an opportunity to connect with your consumers in a different way, an opportunity to show up when people need you.
For us, we’ve tried to use this year as a way to not only make sure that the beer is flowing in 2020, but to use it as a way to come out of 2020 even stronger from a brand perspective.
What has guided your marketing strategy and decision making this year?
Three key principles have been guiding how we’ve been running these brands.
One is to commit to what you stand for as a brand. I think it’s incredibly important in a moment of chaos or uncertainty, to be really clear about who you are as a brand, and what role do you play in consumers’ lives and what are the right ways to show up in their world based on that role.
The second one is around the idea of moving at the speed of culture. We’ve been talking about the “fast, messy, awesome” mindset since last year when I joined the company, and it’s all about moving with speed, adjusting, being agile based on what’s happening. In some ways, I didn’t know it then, but 2019 was the training ground that was needed for 2020. Pivoting very quickly based on what your consumer’s reality has allowed us to find those moments when our brands could really authentically communicate.