How to win with advertising campaigns like Heineken

When you hear Heineken, what do you think? Today? Maybe the fact that Paul Pogba moved a bottle away at that press conference. Euros 2020 has been eventful, hasn’t it? From the tragic to the thrilling to the bemusing. A Coca-Cola bottle had been placed in front of Cristiano Ronaldo days before. In front of too many cameras, he replaced it with water.

Of course, he did. Footballers do not want to drink Coca-Cola before a game, they want to drink water. Advertising should never become that desperate, pretentious. Coca-Cola lost $4 billion on the same day. Brand lessons, eh? 

22-year old Gaerard Adriaan Heineken founded Heineken in 1864. More than 150 years later, his company has grown to become one of the most recognizable beer brands in the world.

The beer market was estimated to have earned revenue of $615,933 million in 2020. While Budweiser is considered the most valuable beer brand, Heineken is a close second. The lager beer company operates in more than 190 countries all over the world with 300 global brands and 85,000 employees. In 2019, Forbes ranked Heineken #46 on its list of global top regarded companies and #83 on the world’s most valuable brands. In the same year, Heineken was valued at $28.3 billion with sales estimated at $26.5 billion. 

How has this brand become so successful? An impressive commitment to advertising. Through the years, Heineken’s advertising efforts have remained strong, targeted at convincing consumers that the beer has high quality and superior tastes. Today, we will tell you all about Heineken’s secrets. 

Brand identity 

Whether you drink beer or not, you are likely to remember visible elements of the Heineken brand – its color, logo, and design. They communicate the long-lasting heritage and authenticity of this top brewer company. The logo has a minimalistic and centralized design that consists of the name of the brand and a part of a red star. The three ‘e’ on the logo are slightly titled backward, to look like smiling faces. This sells it as a fun, entertaining beverage. 

Overall, visual elements that link the Heineken brand are always related to exploration, dynamism, open-mindedness, celebration, and connection. This is directly related to Heineken’s mission statement: ‘To delight customers, day in day out, with perfect cider and beer brand experiences.’ The most obvious marketing strategy is the most important: get a great, iconic design. A bottle of Heineken is shiny, distinct. By perfecting the design of their bottles, Heineken has been able to ensure that whenever a Heineken is near, everyone knows and recognizes it immediately.

Brand positioning 

A drink for everyone! 

Heineken positions itself as a drink for friends who want to have a good time. Don’t we all? They say on their website that they are committed to ‘delivering great shared moments to consumers all over the world’. Surely, their ads depict groups of people in social settings – bars, pubs, homes. The company also makes ads about making new friendships or creating bonds. They portray a lifestyle that progresses beyond one’s borders and reaching out to new personalities and cultures. Ultimately, Heineken has an approach to internationalism, that is for everyone and excludes nobody.  

Open Your World Campaign                                                    

For many years, Heineken’s marketing strategy was the “Open Your World” campaign. This campaign won two Cannes Lions awards and remains one for the history books. Heineken’s famous Worlds Apart: An Experiment video was controversial marketing done right. The video was a social experiment that featured pairs of people with opposing political views. They were given the option of leaving or having discussions over a bottle of beer. Every pair decided to sit down and have a conversation. It was a heartwarming, entertaining video and has garnered over 14.5 million views on YouTube. 

Proud sponsors!

Overall, Heineken’s adverts are enjoyable, memorable. Even James Bond, the world’s coolest spy, sips from that green bottle between martinis. Heineken’s branding strategy involves not only an intention to inspire, but also to remain personally relevant by remaining attached to the target customer’s cultures and origins. The brand is significantly lodged in cultural spaces for young adults – sport, music, and film. 

Heineken engages with customers through event sponsorships. They work closely with some of the world’s biggest right holders to earn major sponsorship. They collaborate with TV channels and events to reinforce their unique positioning. This way, their brand is associated with popular, favored activities such as Formula 1, UEFA Champions League, Rugby World Cup. Heineken often combines traditional and digital marketing to deliver creative ideas.

Share the Sofa Campaign 

Heineken is often the primary sponsor of the Champions League. One of its most successful campaigns was tagged the “Share the sofa”. Heineken knew that 76% of people watch the matches alone on their sofas at home, so it invited people to watch matches together with star players. During the games, fans could send questions via Twitter and chat with these players like close friends. The brand also created reaction videos, pro insights, and funny reactions; all were broadcasted in real-time.

This campaign was quite successful, generating more than 1 billion media impressions in 94 countries. It reached 13.4 million tweets every game and eventually increased consumer’s purchase intent by 7%. 

Brand values 

Heineken’s long-standing values are present in the “Who we are” site: a passion for quality, enjoyment of life, and respect for people and the planet. The company seems to have a sustainable strategy to make a positive contribution to the environment, communities, and society. For instance, it transcends commercialization to often advise against harmful drinking. It always informs consumers to enjoy a beer in moderation. Ads and activities have actively discouraged the abuse of alcohol and encouraged responsible attitudes. 

Know the Signs Campaign 

This campaign aimed to provide comprehensive information about the downsides of drinking too much. Heineken created a website so people could look out for signs of people who were transforming into horrible versions of drinkers: the sleeper, the fighter, the groper, the exhibitionist, and the cryer. Once users spot these types, they are provided with information and alternative realities of how responsible drinking could make the night better.

In the UK, Heineken took drunk driving head-on. They worked with behavioral designers to normalize the idea of being a designated driver at local bars and pubs in the UK. These bars were called nudge bars and they were designed to celebrate designated drivers.

Your business 

There are more lessons to learn from Heineken’s approach to branding. One is to keep your customers excited by staying fresh. For your company to maintain a solid relationship with customers, it must avoid boredom. Reinforce your brand authority by keying into cultural trends. Heineken targets millennial men. It has mastered the art of remaining relevant and leveraging its brand authority to tap into the millennial thirst for adventure. According to Brand Director, Belen Pamukoff, “The only way to connect with millennials is to inspire them and to talk about what they care about. For Heineken, it goes beyond your borders.”

Another lesson is to stay true to your brand. The millennial generation, especially, is not the disloyal nomads they have been painted to be. Millennials are an extremely loyal generation and will maintain a relationship with a brand as long as they continue to receive functional, emotional, and participative benefits. Mature brands are trying to stay relevant with young millennials while staying true to what made them great.


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