Molson Coors Sets the New Beer Agenda

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Blazing Your Own Trail

In the summer of 2008, Peter Swinburn was named C.E.O. of the newly restructured
Molson Coors Brewing Company. Born out of a merger, Molson Coors had almost 10,000 employees; 12 breweries across the U.S., U.K., and Canada; and operations in dozens more countries. After becoming C.E.O., Swinburn knew it was critical to jump-start the midsized company’s growth and maintain independence in an industry increasingly dominated by acquisition-minded giants. He asked ?What If! to help him equip thousands of Molson Coors employees to “challenge the expected” and change the game of beer.

After becoming C.E.O., Swinburn knew it was critical to jump-start the midsized company’s growth and maintain independence in an industry increasingly dominated by acquisition-minded giants.

Molson Coors’s leadership team set an audacious objective: to become a Top-4 global brewer by 2012.

A Brand-new Brew

Molson Coors’s leadership team set an audacious objective: to become a top-tier global brewer by 2012. ?What If! helped develop a strategy to get them there. Called “Our Brew,” it was conceived as a full-scale enablement program to help managers throughout Molson Coors build the skills and confidence to engage employees and build extraordinary brands. An “Our Brew” book—written in down-to-earth, “pub talk” language—was translated into Chinese and French and delivered to every single employee, from the floor of the bottling facility to the corner offices of Molson Coors’s world headquarters.

Exceeding Targets, Defying Limits

After rolling out “Our Brew,” Molson Coors reached its three-year goal for employee engagement in just 12 months. Employee belief that the company “has a clear vision of the future” jumped from 73 percent to 87 percent, nine points ahead of “high-performing company” norms (i.e., committed to financial performance as well as to overall employee morale)—a goal H.R. experts had once called “too ambitious.” 82 percent of Molson Coors employees agreed with the statement “I feel comfortable challenging the expected at work.”

“Our Brew” has earned the Holmes Report Gold SABRE Award for excellence in employee communication and the Silver Anvil Award of Excellence from the Public Relations Society of America. Most importantly, the company’s retention and promotion of talented midlevel executives have improved dramatically as employees now see Molson Coors as a place where innovation happens.

Some innovations that have put Molson Coors well on its way to achieving its 2012 growth target:

  • Molson M, a new premium beer using a micro-carbonation process for a smoother taste, took home the Gold Medal at the 2010 Canadian Brewing Awards.

  • Animée, a new product launched in Fall 2011 to meet the underserved market of female beer drinkers, featuring a sparkling texture and available in flavors such as zesty lemon.

  • New ways to reinforce the cold, refreshing taste of the company’s biggest brand, Coors Light—a key criteria affecting consumer enjoyment—including a thermochromatic ink on the label that turns blue when it has been chilled to the ideal temperature.

  • An unbreakable, 100-percent recyclable aluminum pint bottle for outdoor occasions.

  • The Home Draft, a system providing consumers who prefer draft beer over bottled or canned a way to bring it home without having to buy a full keg.

After rolling out “Our Brew,” Molson Coors reached its three-year goal for employee engagement in just 12 months.

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FROM the greenhouse