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June 05, 2021

Labatt's unfortunate link with Luka Rocco Magnotta

Today, no matter your beer of choice, you have to feel for Labatt.

Remarkably, the iconic brewer has become embroiled in the world’s most sordid story, that of ex-fugitive Luka Magnotta. One of the most widely-circulated photos of the alleged maniac before his Berlin arrest yesterday showed the gay model posing with a Labatt Blue.

Front and centre, it was brand association at its best (or worst), a regrettable link for Labatt between its flagship product and the man foreign press have dubbed the “Canadian Psycho.”

But Labatt has threatened to sue one media outlet for its continued use of the image. It’s an understandable move, but is it the right one?

The Montreal Gazette, which has been central in coverage of the grotesque Magnotta saga, has often used the photo, which shows the alleged killer squatting with a bottle of Blue – label out and clear for all to see.

*Bing: How was Luka Magnotta found?

Tuesday, Labatt Breweries of Canada threatened legal action against the newspaper unless is removes the photo from its website.

“As I am sure you can understand, this image is highly denigrating to our brand, and we are disturbed that this image remains on your site despite repeated requests and the many images available of this person,” Karyn Sullivan, the brewer’s associate general counsel, wrote to the Gazette.

That is Labatt’s argument here: that there are a million photos of Magnotta, who appears on blogs and social networks and everywhere else on the Internet, for use, and the one photo that shows him with a clearly identifiable product isn’t some rare commodity that needs to be circulated.

Though perhaps Labatt has exacerbated the problem by speaking up about it.

“Labatt’s is really drawing attention to themselves, to the extent that the number of people who would have seen this, and drawn bad conclusions about Labatt’s, is less than the number of people who will now be aware of the story,” Alan Middleton, a York University Schulich School of Business marketing prof, told the Globe and Mail. “ … I think they’ve made it worse rather than better.”

Indeed, perhaps you didn’t draw a link between Magnotta and Labatt after seeing the photo, but it’s possible you did subconsciously, which is what Labatt may fear is the problem.

“(Beer) is an image-conscious product. You drink the image,” Middleton continued. “I understand (Labatt’s) motivation.”

Wherever you stand, both sides have a point. While the Gazette  appears to have no legal obligation to remove the public photo, Labatt certainly doesn’t want Blue associated with an alleged killer.

Remember the Ford Bronco, the SUV that became so identifiable with O.J. Simpson after the world saw him racing around southern California in one during the world’s most publicized police chase?

After 95 million people saw O.J. in the Bronco, Ford had to discontinue the brand just two years later.

By Jason Buckland, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...