Stella Artois Becomes Isabella Artois, Honoring Its First CEO … From 300 Years Ago

Talk about early adoption

Fun fact: Stella Artois has the oldest logo in the world. That's a big deal, considering both company and logo have existed since 1366. 

When you're that old, maybe you just see time, and possibilities, differently. Anywho, Stella Artois in Brazil just made a big announcement: For the first time in 600 years, it's changing its brand name to Isabella Artois, in recognition of the woman who became the brewery's CEO when her husband died in 1726. 

Obviously the role wasn't called "CEO" back then, but a shot-caller is a shot-caller is a shot-caller, isn't it? 

Stella Artois | Isabella Artois

"Isabella played an essential role in bringing Stella Artois to where it is today. Her influence on society came when she became the brewery's CEO, before this role even existed, playing in an arena where women were unheard of," observes marketing head Bruna Buás of Stella Artois in Brazil.

The "Isabella Artois" video was created by CP+B Brazil, and precedes the launch of a special-edition Isabella Artois series of beers, supported by social media. 

The video pictures a woman in dreadlocks painting what appears to be the Stella Artois logo. Meanwhile, a voiceover describes Isabella Artois. "She dealt with big challenges before finding her place," it tells us. 

At the end, we see the designer has replaced "Stella" with Isabella. The design itself is a label, which she presses onto a bottle. 

The brand hopes to inspire other women—other Isabellas—to pursue the maverick path. The parent campaign, "She Inspires," will use other content to start a "movement to recognize inspiring women around the world, from great historical figures to women working behind the scenes to help make a difference, to women who have played a key role in supporting the brand's consumers in their life paths."

Wow. That's a lot of different kinds of women.

"If women don't have it easy in business today, try to imagine the things Isabella came up against in 1726," CP+B Brazil's general head of account, Renata Wirthmann, says. "The idea of a name change for Stella was born out of the desire to recognize her pioneering role and help create a movement that inspires other women with Isabell's example of strength and courage." 

The brand and agency's hearts are certainly in the right place. And the idea is fine, if only because we discover this brand-new superhero, hidden in the annals of history: one Isabella Artois, running the brewery that would ultimately outlast so many competitors. 

Our biggest critique of the work is its own careful, measured preciousness, a thing that often manifests when a brand lifts up a woman figure: They're gifted to us as deities who "dealt with big challenges" but lack any other relatable nuance. 

Compare this treatment to "The History of Isabella Artois," released by Mother London during Stella's "Be Legacy" campaign three years ago. Here, Isabella is also explored—obviously with a much bigger production budget. (We're not faulting anybody for budget sizes; you do what you have to.) And she's depicted as this gangster-chic mix between Marie Antoinette and a pirate:

Stella Artois Be Legacy | The History of Isabella Artois

While it's sort of empowering, the problem's pretty much the same: All you actually see is Isabella having "big challenges" (men laughing at her, basically) before "finding her place" (throwing a hairpin that is actually a butterknife, taking the brewery … and then throwing a party?!). 

That's cool and all; we wish we could all be that kinda bad-ass. But compare that to "The History of Sebastian Artois," which revisits Stella's founder: 

Stella Artois Be Legacy | The History of Sebastian Artois

The amount of time allocated is the same. But there's this whole breathing world Mother has taken serious time fleshing out—the streets have a life that bounces off the screen! And Sebastian himself has both good qualities and flaws—he's charming but youthfully so, persistent but obviously naive. 

The entire plot is basically him selling all his belongings to raise the funds for a crazy dream, but there's a person back there; you know that guy, even if the particulars remain thin. You see the world he lived in, and can see his struggle and self-doubt; in a single minute, he is graced with dimensions. 

In comparison, treatments of Isabella resemble a stage play, and not in an especially strong way. What do we know about her, having seen two ads about her? 

Her husband died. Men gave her shit. She ran the brewery. 

Mother's treatment of her is too over-the-top: She has zero fear! She wears cat-eye eyeliner! She throws epic parties! But CP+B's is too spare: You neither see nor hear from her. We are left only with her name and a wispy exhortation to other Isabellas to rise up. 

Nobody bothered to make Isabella a person. We don't know how she took over the brewery, how long for, what particulars she faced, what tiny wins encouraged her, what changes she made that Stella still benefits from, or to what degree it must have been overwhelming, frustrating and thankless to run a company in a hundred thousand granular little ways, the types of ways that frankly haven't changed much for women—or any fledgling entrepreneur—since. 

That's too bad. Because it's hard to project yourself onto a Madonna, even if she's a gangster Madonna. Neat, though, that the label's changing.

CREDITS

Title: Isabella Artois
Agency: CP+B BRASIL
Client: AMBEV
Product: STELLA ARTOIS
CCO: André Kassu and Marcos Medeiros
Creative Director: Marcelo Rizério and Rodrigo Visconti
Creative Team: Amanda Losi, Camilla Lopes, Carolina Heer, Rodrigo Rocha and Vinny Couto
RTVC: Ana Paula Casagrande and Fabíola Camilo
Art Buyer: Valeria Andrighetti
Planner: Rafael Lavor, Daniel Kolb and Julia Garcia
Account: Renata Wirthmann, Guilherme Grigol, Amanda Gomes and Victor Laureano
Media: Tiago Santos, Renata Andrade, Germano de Oliveira, Bruna Guise, Mariane Aquino and Bernard Xavier
Graphic Design: Robson Ciaramicoli, Marcio Santos and Leonardo Fioravante
Social: Paulo Yanaguizawa
Production Company: Boiler Filmes
Director: Mayra Ferro and Kaká Gonçalves
Director of Photography: André Faccioli
Executive Producer: Gabriel Dagostini
Account at Production Company: Priscilla Sanches, Rachel Buzzoleti and Rebeca Broncher
Editing: Ricardo Quintela
Post Production Company: Célula
Post Producer: Fezão Barbieri
Sound Company: Satélite Áudio
Account at Production Company Produtora: Juliana Costa / Tatiane Ferreira
Conductor: Kito Siqueira / Roberto Coelho
Voice Over: Juliana Calderon
Production Company: Equipe Satélite Áudio
Client Approval: Ricardo Dias, Bruna Buas, Lucas Oliveira and Adriana Parnes

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Angela Natividad
Angela Natividad is a founding contributor to Muse. She is also the co-founder of esports agency Hurrah.gg, and co-author of Generation Creation.