Summer and Beer: a pair like Sonny and Cher

It was twenty years ago this summer that Labatt changed the drinking habits of Canadians by introducing a longer-necked beer bottle with a twist-off cap. With the careful control of production, marketing and advertising, Labatt also managed to knock constant competitor Molson on its heels. The latest salvo in an intense war with Molson for market share, the twist-off cap was a ground-breaking innovation in a national market just getting used to long-necked bottles. This was a secret product that had been developed, advertising produced and factories retooled, over a year: Molson could not be allowed to piggyback on Labatt's work, especially through the beer-heavy summer months.

Labatt's management counted upon deception to win the battle: a new ad for Labatt Lite was broadcast in Alberta, touting the benefits of a new, longer-necked bottle. At the same time, Labatt bought a million tall bottles - without a twist-off.

Molson, judging that Labatt was making a longer-necked bottle the marketing innovation of the summer (remember - Canada was still a land wedded to the stubby), bought millions of bottles - without a twist-off.

Naturally, they were non-plussed when a new version of the Labatt Lite ad ran in Alberta, one that began with a traditional bottle opener shooting off the screen and closed with the bottle being opened with the twist of a wrist.

"They deked us and we fell for it," said Molson's Norm Seagram, then president of Molson's Alberta operations. "It was beautifully executed and it worked perfectly."(From Paul Brent's Lager Heads)

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