People don’t choose brands, they join them


People don’t CHOOSE brands, they JOIN them. That’s a pretty powerful statement if you pause to think about what it actually means. “Choosing” is about making a selection for now. It’s transactional and it may or may not be repeated. “Joining” is about commitment, now and into the future. It’s about being with others who share you interests and values. The notion of joining is powerful.

To be in a position where folks might want to join you, rather than choose you, consumers must understand WHY you do what you do, not just WHAT you do and HOW you do it. When you uncover the why, we start to understand what you stand for, what’s your purpose, and why you’re worth joining.

Let’s take beer as an example. At first blanch as alcohol and as a commodity, it would seem an unlikely candidate for uniting values or standing behind a cause. But beer as a category is largely positioned on intangibles and emotion. Enter Molson Canadian, who has done a brilliant job at positioning themselves as being unapologetically Canadian in their values and standing for hockey. They’ve also effectively leveraged content marketing in creating a community around their brand that people want to join.

Last summer Molson Canadian trucked a beer fridge to various countries in Europe, displaying it in crowded public spaces. The fridge would only open once a Canadian scanned their passport, thereby allowing those gathered to enjoy a few cold ones together. The mystery and merriment of getting the fridge to open was of course all documented and shared in a video online, creating community around Canada and being proud of where you’re from. Here’s the link in case you missed it:

Flash forward to the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, where the Canadian beer fridge made another guest appearance. Placed inside Canada House, it proved a popular dispenser of victory celebration.


The way Molson has leveraged the fridge appearance through photo shares and posts on Instagram, Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Vine and Youtube is powerful. They have enabled their community of fans to share their message easily. But the best piece of content marketing they produced was a “Top 10 list of the ways Canada has already won the winter Olympics”. Have a look here. If you’re Canadian it will make you proud. If you’re not, it will make you wish you were. the list that highlights things Canada has done such as giving a Russian XC skier a ski to finish a race, or a qualified speed skating athlete giving up his spot to a team mate who went on to win silver, it ties very effectively back to the VALUES that those things represent: generosity, dignity, humbleness, pride, sharing, diversity, gay rights, family, and at the end unapologetically acknowledging success in the metal count. It appears natural that #5 is the “Canadian beer fridge” being accessed by a Canadian passport as a demonstration of the nations pride and generosity. The bottom of the list shows a graphic “On behalf of all Canadians, SORRY for being so awesome all the time” and a #anythingforhockey hashtag. Make no mistake, top 10 lists such as this are highly shareable, and Molson Canadian, no doubt created it for that purpose.

Content creation such as this is spot on. It not only states the values that Canada stands for, it effectively attaches the Molson Canadian brand to those values as well. People want to join the brand and share the values. It’s about a whole lot more than just choosing a beer.

So, on behalf of all Canadians, we’re sorry we’re so good at hockey, if you come from a country we beat during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic games. For now I am unapologetically JOINING brand Canada.




Mary Charleson


  1. What an amazing strategy. In my opinion, they have succeeded in connecting with their customers emotionally. This reminds me of Nabi Saleh quote ‘ We aren’t in the coffee business, serving people. We’re in the people business, serving coffee”. I am in no way comparing beer and coffee. They have found hockey as a common ground and thus captured people’s interest. The one word to describe Molson is being “Authentic”.

    I visited the website of Molson and also the website of Kingfisher beer ( the largest beer manufacturer of beer in India). I was surprised to find that I had to enter my date of birth and year to log into the website, whereas Kingfisher website is open to everyone. It is a lesson for the Indian beer manufacturer to have these log in details to create social awareness. I am not a beer drinker but for sure will try one bottle next time.
    Thank you Professor again for a great post!

  2. Thanks for the comments Jikku. I think you hit on it nicely when you noted the emotional connection they’ve made. Values based connections touch at the emotional level. Content marketing is a progressive approach, and one we’re certainly seeing more of. Done well (as in this case) it doesn’t even feel like marketing, and that’s the key. Rethink, an ad agency in Vancouver was responsible for the strategy behind this. There’s a lot to be learned here for progressive companies.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Featured on


Subscribe to Mary’s Weekly
Five-Minute Marketing Tips.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.