Product branding swept the consumer world in the early 20th century. In a competition-driven market, a brand mark is an element that identifies, differentiates, positions and asserts the corporate ownership of a product. A brand mark may be a picture or be embodied by a logo, a particular typeface, an emblem, distinctive packaging, a unique shape or other feature.
Dawes Brewery adopted the black Percheron as an emblem in the late 19th century. This choice no doubt stemmed from the passion for horses and horse racing for which James Powley Dawes, the founder’s grandson, was known. The strength of the Black Horse brand lay in the fact that its emblem and visual identity remained consistent throughout the company’s existence. Consumers came to associate black Percherons with Black Horse beer, without seeing the brand. The black horse became the visual reference for the brewery, clearly identified with the brand and unrivalled, since the competing breweries did not have brand marks in those days. Furthermore, every time one of the Percherons won a competition the Black Horse brand image gained prestige.
Prestige and Longevity
The Black Horse brand stood out in Dawes Brewery, and then within the National Breweries consortium that Dawes formed with a dozen other breweries. Those companies marketed beers identified only by type (ale, lager, etc.) and the brewery’s name. In this respect, Dawes Brewery was different: it gave a brand name to almost all of the beers that it made, and the most popular one was indisputably the famous Black Horse ale.
In 1938, Black Horse was so popular that it prompted the brewery to make the brand name part of the corporate name, which became Dawes Black Horse Brewery. During World War II, the government prohibited any reference to products in brewery ads; only the company could be mentioned. In these circumstances, Dawes Black Horse had a significant advantage: mentioning the brewery automatically named its star product.
In 1952, Canadian Breweries bought National Breweries and began cutting the number of brands it marketed. For the ales, all efforts were focused on Dow, and in July 1952, the last Black Horse was brewed. It was briefly put back on the market in the 1960s, and then permanently retired.
Nevertheless, Black Horse beer brewed in Quebec met with success far beyond the province’s borders. Black Horse was distributed and particularly enjoyed in the United States and Ontario. In a fiercely competitive market, Dawes Brewery successfully kept its flagship brand at the forefront for more than 50 years.
retrait_blackhorse.pdf: Copy of a report to the shareholders of National Breweries Limited, among other things seeking authorization to change the company’s name from National Breweries Limited to Dow Brewery Limited, May 12, 1952. Gift of Michel and Jacqueline Ste Marie, RG-1999-582
extrait_etude_de_marche_biere_black_horse.pdf: Black Horse penetration study, Ontario, Dow Brewery Limited; Canadian Facts Company, Canadian Facts Ltd., Toronto, Ontario, 1965. Source: Queen’s University, Stauffer Library, HD9397.C24 D68 1965