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Heineken aims to break free from the six-pack as marketer promises big things in 2016

Heineken fears that hipsters can't carry a case on their Vespa

Heineken fears hipsters can’t carry a case on their scooters

The opening of Heineken House, a new specialist bar at Sydney Airport due to open later this year, is stage one of a push by the brand to cement itself as the premium beer choice for Australian drinkers.

But according to Andrew Campbell, the brand’s Australian marketing director, Heineken has even bigger plans – from changing how the beer is served in bars to how consumers can buy it at bottle shops.

Campbell told Mumbrella that brands were having to completely rethink their approach to the market to extend beyond 30-second TVC and a beer coaster in a bar.

Andrew Campbell

Campbell: “Globally we have 12 different pack formats for the brand of Heineken”

He said Heineken House will be just one experience consumers will encounter.

“I have been with Heineken for 10 years in a few different markets and we certainly use airports,”Campbell said.

“Our view is that Heineken is well-positioned in Australia for future growth. There are three angles.

“Our brand positioning continues to be very strong; we have the top two in the beer category in terms of brand positioning.

“Awareness, how we measure how customers love and adore our brand is in the top three.

“We have been pretty lucky with some of our global platforms; we had the Rugby World Cup last year, we had James Bond – which was our biggest deal in November, when it came out and we had a lot of activity around that.”

However, Campbell said that creating new opportunities at the local level was the anchor of its global campaigns.

“We don’t just take the global campaigns, we take the direction globally and then we ‘top-spin’ it locally – add momentum and make it relevant to the local market,” he said.

“Where we are trying to go for the future is really just to reinforce the premium image. It’s a big beer market, there’s lots of brands, you need to stand for something, you need to stand out. And we are trying to engage directly with consumers.

“When a consumer goes and purchases a glass of Heineken at a bar, how do we make that experience the most premium for them?”

He said small details such as the right glass and right temperature were paramount to getting people to make the brand their first choice the next time they went back to the bar.

“We talk a lot about premiumising where the customer makes that decision to purchase Heineken,” he said.

One of the challenges was meeting local expectation of how a beer should be poured, but matching them to the best way that the Dutch brand should be served.

Heineken Airport Bars are extending the experience

Heineken Airport Bars are extending the experience

“Our biggest goal and our biggest challenge is making sure that at every premium bar that premium service is also there and that you come in and get that premium experience.

“We can see a direct uplift in people going back and ordering the second Heineken when we serve it in a particular way and when we serve it with simple things like branded glass ware and coasters, and poured perfectly.

As a result, Heineken has sent five people from the company to Amsterdam for a week to be qualified in how to pour Heineken.

“Their goal is to come back and train bar staff on a regular basis on what a great beer looks like and why it tastes better when it is poured in this particular way. We are good in the marketplace but we have to lift the bar and be great.

“We still have above-the-line campaigns, of course, but you are seeing more movement in terms of engaging directly with consumers and to get more value.

“Consumers want to be spoken to less and engaged more. The younger more adult consumer now wants to be part of the conversation rather than just flicking on and watching a TV advert at a particular time.”

Working with brands such as Uber to extend the Heineken experience has also been successful and Campbell said the rise in interest in craft beers was good for the industry as a whole.

“I’m very excited about what craft beer is doing for the broader industry; it’s bringing back interest. But not everyone wants to drink a craft beer.”

Campbell believes that getting consumers to share their experiences is still a part of the marketing mix the company was learning about and the brand is now working on extending “the Heineken moment” on to new time-slots and beyond daytime, when it is traditionally consumed.

“We invest a lot of funds in how we communicate responsible drinking. The last thing we ever want to be seen to be doing is trying to drive a volume outcome, to drink more beer. We are very proud of being one of the leading brewers globally in how we do that.”

“The second thing is, being slightly new to the Australian beer market, is I suppose is the formats, and when I say ‘formats’ I’m talking about pack sizes that we allow our consumers to enjoy beer on different occasions.

“If I look at our markets globally on average we have 12 different pack formats for Heineken.”

He cited France as the most extreme example – with more than a dozen different ways to buy the brew in shops.

“There is a variety of different SKUs which allow consumers to choose what meets their consumption occasion.

“In Australia if I’m going to a barbecue my choice is guided by a case of beer, at probably quite a good price, or I can by a six-pack at, quite frankly, a high price and there is nothing in the middle.

“We talk about the young adult consumer: they can’t actually fit two cartons of Heineken on their scooter anymore and they can’t carry it into their apartment in the city.

“Industry clearly believes that a special of two cases of whatever brand for $90 is the way to drive sales.

“With respect to everybody that’s preceded me, there is a massive opportunity here. Everyone is a bit nervous about it. What does that mean, does it mean people are going to buy less beer? Quite frankly I think the young adult consumer is looking for more occasional-based format.

“I’m trying to do my best to lead that and position ourselves in that way, but it is challenging.”

However, while the local focus is turning to experience and packaging, Campbell says he cannot ignore the power of the global sponsorships such as the Rugby World Cup and the Bond franchise.

“Australians, for whatever reason, really, really buy into the James Bond franchise,” Campbell said.

“The connection with James Bond is extremely high so that is why we put most of our efforts into leading with that as a brand initiative last year, and one of the executions we did other than the secret parties and the catch was a very good offer of ‘buy a case of Heineken and you can get a ticket to see the movie’ and that wasn’t ‘maybe get a ticket’ or ‘go into a draw to get a ticket’, it was get a ticket.”

The results in Australia for the campaign were astounding.

“We are still waiting for the final results of the campaign but the success of that campaign.. I think the redemption rate was three times higher than what we had ever seen before. So you have to pick the things globally that are going to work in the global market.”

He said working with Amsterdam to create local “top-spin” was also crucial to the success of global initiatives.

“We thought last year was busy because we had Rugby World Cup and backed straight into Bond, and with some of our bigger campaigns we changed the label on the bottle. This year is growing the experiential side and a lot of that is around premium star serve we see with Heineken and innovation.”

Simon Canning

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