"When you're smiling
Just keep on smiling
If you were yuppie in the 70s or early 80s, this tune should get your taste buds flowing, for beer. Labatt Blue to be exact.
In the year 1847, a Canadian husband and father by the name of John Kinder Labatt founded Labatt Brewing Company in London, Ontario ("Labatt Brewing Co.”). In the 150 years since then, Labatt’s beer has seen enormous growth and fame across Canada and the world. One of its highest points in history came after - and as a result of - the long-running “When You’re Smiling” marketing campaign, which dealt specifically with Labatt Blue beer.
The campaign started in the 60s and continued promoting Blue well into the 80s, capturing the attention of millions of people across varying generations (Strategy). Labatt Blue was one of the first brands to use television advertising, which appears to have paid off in the company’s favour. After such a successful campaign, Blue became the number one selling beer in Canada in 1979 ("Labatt Brewing Co.”).
Below is a recorded clip of one of the first ever television ads in the campaign from 1968, titled “Wharf Party”. Labatt Blue was originally branded as Pilsener Lager, which explains the unfamiliar lyrics to the jingle; however, the images and aesthetic depicted in the advertisement epitomizes the “When You’re Smiling” Campaign ("Labatt Brewing Co.”). Over the course of the campaign, aspects of the advertisement were changed, such as the name from Pilsener to Blue, the lyrics, and the colour of the hot air balloon from red to blue, but the sense of fun and happiness is a constant throughout.
What’s so strong about this campaign is that its marketing strategies are effective on multiple levels, appealing to a variety of consumer interests and demands. In all honestly, there doesn’t appear to be a single aspect of the advertisement that is unappealing. If the same television commercial was played today, with slight technological updates of course, I’m sure it would have the same effect on consumers as it did forty years ago.
In one sentence, the campaign can be used to summarize Labatt Blue as the beer of Canadian summers with friends and family. “Wharf Party” is the perfect depiction of that, with friends out on the water, enjoying good classic fun.
The lighthearted music, with relevant lyrics sung by Peggy Lee, appeals to the consumers’ desire for relaxation and happiness, while Blue’s patriotic catchphrase “Canada’s True-Blue Lager” appeals to the patriot’s interest to support Canadian products (“Wharf Party”). A classic Canadian summer with a classic Canadian beer.
Furthermore, the campaign’s depictions of adventurous summer activities connotes friendship, togetherness, and a refreshing escape from ordinary life. The commercials’ depictions of young adults in their prime catches the interests of a multitude of generations for the greatest consumer response. As a direct result, Blue appeals to younger audiences’ admiration; invoking a sense of aspiration to be like the yuppies seen in the ads. Equally effective, Blue appeals to older audiences’ memories of ‘the good old days’; invoking a sense of nostalgia to be like young adults in the ads once more.
Although television marketing has come a long way since the 60s, Labatt’s “When You’re Smiling” campaign remains one of the standout successes in my mind to date. Advertising has acquired a bad rap since then; with appropriate ethics and morals often being thrown to the wayside in conceptualization and production to achieve greater gains. Why not go back to fundamentals? Original television campaigns such as that of Labatt Blue were successful purely because of their brilliant conception and production, without crossing any social lines. My opinion may not count for much, but I believe we should look back in advertising so that we may move forward in a more positive direction.
"Blue Smiles Along With You". Labatt Brewing Co. When You're Smiling Campaign. 1983.
"Labatt Brewing Co.". Advertising Age. Crain Communications, 5 Sept. 2003. Web. 25 Apr. 2015. <http://adage.com/article/adage-encyclopedia/labatt-brewing/98740/>.
Strategy. "50 Years of Labatt Blue". Strategy. Brunico Communications Ltd., 1 Oct. 2006. Web. 25 Apr. 2015. <http://strategyonline.ca/2006/10/01/bluetimeline-20061001/>.
"Wharf Party". Labatt Brewing Co. When You're Smiling Campaign. 1968. Television.