Brands that are rooted in truth have a much higher rate of success than those invented by marketers. The story that ultimately brought to life Great Northern Brewing Co was founded in truth when The Cairns Brewery Company opened in 1924. In 1927 it ran out of money and so a new company, Northern Australian Breweries, formed to take over and continue brewing under supervision of Captain Auguste J. C. de Bavay. It’s a curious feature of the Queensland brewing industry that a great many more of its early brewers and beer entrepreneurs came from distant Victoria rather than from neighbouring New South Wales. The Northern Australian Brewery was acquired by CUB in 1931 and was their first brewery operating in Queensland.
Believe it or not, the Great Northern Brewing Co brand started life as a beer brief aimed at surfers. The insight driving this was the success of Toohey’s Summer – which if you dial back to 2009 had found an audience seeking an easy-going, sessionable beer for social occasions. Toohey’s at this time had the mainstream market cornered with XXXX Gold in the mid-strength and Summer punching above its weight in the full-strength mainstream beer category.
Fluid’s brief, to find the next big beer, literally started life as a ‘what if?’ exercise. We set about creating hundreds of NPD ideas, applying our ‘chop shop’ rapid ideation process to explore numerous iterations and creative naming ideas to bring the desired brand proposition to life. The driving insight was that this new beer needed to be Queensland- centric, where the year round warmer climate fitted perfectly with the product’s easy drinking nature.
It became clear from consumer qualitative research that the surfer’s beer proposition was too limiting. We needed to broaden appeal, so investigated other lifestyle activities that could land the relaxed and easygoing tone. Great Northern Brewing Co (GNBC) which was part of the Carlton United Brewery empire, had closed in 1929. However, the link to Queensland was undeniable. To broaden appeal, we linked the GNBC name with fishing, which was a creative masterstroke. The inclusion of maroon, the colour of Queensland’s rugby code, sealed the deal. A second round of consumer research tested this proposition and it achieved universal appeal. As they say, the rest is history.
The Great Northern Brewing Co success can in part be attributed to not attempting to make it all things for all people. The brand was launched in Queensland in 2010, firstly on tap in pubs and clubs, then introduced as a full-strength can and stubby. Once the brand gained traction and met the expected sales targets a midstrength was introduced to the GNBC family. The brand was cemented in Queensland, emotively supported by the ABL campaign ‘the Beer from Up Here’, created by George Patterson YNR. The northern credentials were undeniable and the beer expanded nationally in 2015 and has never looked back, growing to 10% of the total beer volume sold in Queensland, and 23% nationally YTD 2018.
Great Northern Brewing Co has experienced its fair share of accolades over the years. Super Crisp was named winner of the New Product of the Year Award at the 2015 Australian Liquor Industry Awards, and GNBC won Best Sales Achievement at the Australian Drinks Awards
in 2017. In January 2018, sales of Great Northern were up 56% over the Christmas period 2017-18, with the brand being touted as a serious contender to Queensland’s most popular beer brand XXXX. GNBC’s distinctive Marlin brand has achieved phenomenal growth, with 10 million litres sold nationally YTD since the brand went national in 2015.