What should a brand do when a political candidate’s proposed policies threaten to undermine the values it has spent decades promoting? Is it even right to take a political stance in the first place?
These are the questions Mexican beer brand Tecate faced last fall, as then presidential candidate Donald Trump promised to construct a wall between Mexico and the United States if elected as part of a hardline stance on immigration. Tecate, which was acquired by Heineken in 2010 but still operates a brewery just 600 meters from California, has worked hard to develop a presence in the U.S. through humor, a focus on masculinity and attracting Mexican-Americans proud of their bicultural identity. But Trump’s platform threatened to dismantle the message of cross-cultural brotherhood that’s key to Tecate’s positioning.
The brand decided to tackle the issue head-on with a bold message in “The Wall,” a TV commercial developed with Saatchi & Saatchi NY that showed two groups of men sharing a six-pack over a short border wall and which premiered on Sept. 24, 2016.
“We are a brand that’s invested in both sides of the border, so we saw that we needed to do something about it — emotionally tear down that wall,” Esther Garcia, Tecate’s U.S. vice president, said during a session at Advertising Week last month about how marketers can take a political stance. “We could do it because of who we are: the most popular brand in Mexico. Who better to unify the two sides?”
The message seemed like a natural fit, so the brand thought undertaking the risky campaign was the right move.
“It’s not about politics. It’s about having a lighthearted point of view and the right to do it,” Garcia said.
Despite the fit, the 73-year-old brand knew it would need to tread carefully as it developed the strategy. The first step was to find a strategic opportunity to strike, as Tecate recognized that timing would be critical for the success or demise of the campaign.
Thoughtful and thrifty thinking
The effort got underway just a few months before the first presidential debate in September 2016, a public event that attracts millions of viewers, when most of the commercial slots were already booked. Besides the abbreviated development timeframe, Tecate had spent most of its advertising budget around a boxing match on Mexican Independence Day.
“We needed to be swift, thrifty and bold, and focus on media that would create noise,” Garcia said.
“It’s not about politics. It’s about having a lighthearted point of view and the right to do it.”
Esther Garcia, Tecate U.S. Vice President
The brand accomplished its goals by snagging a spot on Fox News, where it expected the campaign’s tongue-in-cheek message of “a wall that brings us together” would likely win attention. Tecate knew that poking fun at the Republican candidate on a conservative network like Fox could stir up a backlash, so it worked with a public relations team from the get-go to anticipate and respond to consumers’ reactions in real time. The team started a conversation on social media via the hashtag #TecateBeerWalltwo days before the ad aired to tease the campaign and build momentum.