Blunders That Helped Build Brands (II) – James Ready Beer

Categories Branding

What are the chances that you will come to hear of a small brewery in Canada? But then that’s how interesting stories are. They can pop up anywhere.

So, as I said James Ready is a small brewery in Canada. They sell one dollar beer bottles that are “fully fermented, lightly hopped and dry brewed, creating a lightly coloured beer with less body.”

They were known for beer that’s not great nor too bad and billboard ads that were brilliant. But they were not a social media case study, not yet.

Now, all James Ready beers came with a message under the cap, such as these:

  • Jessica O thanks for your ripped label.
  • If you work at a rink freeze this at center ice.
  • Make a cool mini golf cart and use JR caps as wheels.
  • Lobby for a JR day.
  • Tell people JR may make your hair grow.

These are not exactly funny or witty. They are mostly about spreading the brand name or tips for saving money for beer. (You can see all of them here). The brewery didn’t even know if anyone read those lines until a printing goof up a left a lot of these caps blank. Within a few days, the brewery started getting letters and online comments from drinkers asking about the blank caps. Before they knew what the big deal was about, they were in the eye of a storm.

Any standard company would have issued an apology or would have turned blind hoping it will soon pass, but not James Ready. They launched a Blank Cap Recall campaign which invited all drinkers to mail back the blank caps. In return, the company promised to send a little “something”, which depended on the number of caps. But it was never a significant sum nor was it advertised as a major contest.

Even without the incentive of getting anything substantial in return, fans mailed in thousands of blank caps. Soon, the campaign became a rage online and the campaign was such a success that many suspected that the blank caps were intentional.

If you are still wondering what the gifts were, how about some stuffed hamsters, old hockey cards, dishwashing gloves? The campaign won the agency Leo Burnett quite a few awards and James Ready got thousands of lifelong followers. After all, 2,423,407 were sent out and they are still coming back!