As a well established whisky brand Canadian Club whisky was struggling to engage a new generation of consumers. Once a celebrated brand back in the 60s and 70s, Canadian was sliding down the sales rankings from its regular top 10 placing, to a lowly 36th in 2007.
Market research and anecdotal evidence showed that while many of the target drinkers (aged 30-39) were aware of the brand, it was only for its historic value as something drunk by their parents. The brand also suffered from poor recognition from bar tenders, who would fail to recommend the drink to customers. Although on-trade sales are in steady decline, choices made in the bar often translate to purchases made in the supermarket, so availability in bars can crucial to the success of a spirit brand.
A campaign was needed that would reposition the brand in the growing spirits market, stem the decline in sales, and improve Canadian Club's bar presence. The available budget would not allow for a full re-branding exercise, so the decision was made to capitalise on the drink's former popularity.
The "Damn right your dad drank it" campaign was created using photographs of the parents of Canadian Club employees from the 60s and 70s, coupled with a humorous reference to the state of modern masculinity. These were placed on posters, in magazines and in bars. The campaign also sought to reclaim the cocktail from the modern "Sex & the City" fashion and return to a more masculine "Rat-Pack" era.
Canadian Club has a history of clever, self-referential ad campaigns. Back in the 1960s the "Hide a Case" campaign saw cases of Canadian Club hidden in exotic locations around the world, including the Arctic Circle and Mount Kilimanjaro.
The "Damn Right" campaign proved popular with consumers, who were invited to created their own posters using pictures of their own parents. The concept saw many humorous parodies and took on a viral quality as people made up their own "Damn Right" posters.
Starting in the summer of 2007 the campaign successfully halted the 17-year downward trend in sales within four months. By early 2008, sales had started to climb by over 4%, overtaking the competitor Diageo brand, Crown Royal. Research also indicated that brand recognition amongst consumers and bar tenders had been significantly increased.
The "Damn Right" campaign demonstrates that historic brands do not always need expensive re-invention and re-branding campaigns to engage a new generation of drinkers, and that brands shouldn't be afraid to celebrate their past.