The proliferation of quirky, niche craft ale brands has captured the public’s imagination, who have never before drunk from such a diverse range of beers, leading long-established brands to change their tactics to gain more exposure.
A need for such activity had occurred sooner than if craft had not been as popular, Wills told the MA ahead of Bombardier’s rebrand, new marketing campaign and the launch of its Bombardier Pale Ale.
“We really looked at the craft market that’s being talked about, although it’s only a small part of the market,” he said.
“We see cask as the original craft and if you stand still [with development] then you’re likely to go backwards.”
The new branding and marketing activity around Bombardier aims to tell consumers a more relatable story than past activity.
A blind drummer, Roy Turnham, will appear in print, television and other advertising activity to showcase the Bombardier’s new direction, said Wills.
“If you look at the characters associated with the brand previously, there was a degree of there being a story behind them, but we have a slightly more authentic and credible one to tell now with Roy.”
Bombardier’s new marketing will aim to resonate with current drinkers – those aged between 35 and 55 – and gather in a younger demographic of drinkers, he added.
“We see craft as a different opportunity,” Wills continued. “I wouldn’t say that we’re worried about craft taking younger drinkers from us, because we know they will also drink cask."
‘Less relevant to younger drinkers’
He added: "However, if we [the cask sector] don’t do something now then there’s a chance cask could become less relevant to younger drinkers.”
As for the new Bombardier Pale Ale, Wills and the team at Charles Wells are aiming to deliver a different story to the public.
The St George’s flag is a prominent part of the marketing on Bombardier for its Burning Gold and Glorious English variants, but the new pale ale won’t feature the flag.
Wills said: “We have taken off the English flag because we thought quite a lot about the role of Englishness, which was very much a part of the last campaign.
“But over the past few months with things like Brexit, we decided to go down a different route.”
The new ale has an ABV of 3.6% and is made using Golding, Chinook and Challenger hops.
Also this week, Kent-based brewer and pub operator Shepherd Neame revealed its new corporate rebrand, which will be used in all areas of the business, including its beer, pubs and hotels.