It's only about 1% of the U.S. alcoholic beverages market, but Johnny Appleseed’s favorite fermented beverage is making headway. Hard ciders are growing fans and the competition is heating up.
So Vermont Hard Cider, a unit of Dublin-based C&C Group PLC's, is launching its first ad campaign for its core (no pun intended) brew, Woodchuck Cider, the number two brand in the U.S. The effort, “Why Woodchuck,” touts the 24-year-old brand as America's original, crafted hard cider, an effort to differentiate the brand versus the competition.
The ads offer a humorous take on brand mythology. One shows a farmer trapped under his collapsed horse cart carrying cider barrels. He is beseeching a woodchuck to help him of the jam, but the animal, an animatronic puppet, sits by until the guy promises to name the cider after him, at which point it dashes to the cart and saws through the cart with its teeth, freeing the farmer. Cut to a group at a bar, drinking Woodchuck. “And that's why it's called Woodchuck.”
The second spot has a pair of guys drinking what looks like Woodchuck, but it's actually “Hairless Yak Cider.” When one guy complains about the name the other suggests they go back in time to fix the issue, which they can do because he has a smartphone app for time travel. Back they go, fix they do. Cut to a party, with a guy saying, “And that's why it's called Woodchuck,” to his girlfriend, to which she replies, “You're an idiot.” Tag: “Real Cider. From a Real Cidery.”
The effort, via Fairfield, Conn.-based creative agency Smartfish Group, with New York shop SwellShark doing media, includes digital video with the two spots launching simultaneously. The company says the effort, which also has digital banners, terrestrial radio and digital audio elements, will roll out market by market starting with Austin, Phoenix, Denver, Minneapolis, Kansas City, and Hartford.
Bridget Blacklock, marketing director at Vermont Hard Cider, stated that the company wanted to re-establish its position in the category. “Authenticity matters greatly with our target audience and it was time to shine a light on who we truly are, which makes us unique among many of the cider brands that are out there today.”
Don't underestimate the power of the apple. Last year InBev and MillerCoors got into the business with Johnny Appleseed and Smith & Forge, respectively. So did Stella Artois Cidre. Boston Beer's Angry Orchard Cider leads the category with 40% share last year. C&C Group, which also owns Irish cider brand Magner's, acquired Woodchuck Cider in 2012 for $305 million.