Heineken, brand strategy, branding

This week’s blog from eSense is written, in part, in response to an interesting article posted by Mark Ritson at Marketing Week. Last week, he reviewed the new ad created by Heineken, titled ‘Open Your World’ and raised some very valid points on exactly how those in the marketing industry are currently approaching their brand strategy. Following on from that, eSense would like to offer some tips on how to create a brand strategy without forgoing what marketers’ ultimate goal should be: driving more sales.

Firstly though, let’s review Heineken’s new advert. Released last month, this latest campaign from Heineken, as suggested by Ritson, really demonstrates how many businesses have started to lose focus on their objectives when marketing their brand. Heineken’s ad, like many others currently being promoted, spends the majority of the time focusing on life values. Very little time is spent on promoting the brand or the product itself. It is as if many advertisers today are almost too afraid (or too cool, as Ritson suggests) to admit that they want to sell you something. Instead of showcasing a great product and describing the benefits to the consumer, brands are tiptoeing around trying to put the world to rights by highlighting political, ethical or environmental issues and then trying to sneak in a visual of the product almost when no one is looking. Heineken’s ad is over 4 minutes long and most of that time is spent watching how people can overcome their differences. Shots of the product last little more than 4 seconds! Now, as a short film, it is quite interesting, heart-warming even, to watch. But as a marketer, I believe that the product is not going to be the part of this ad that will be remembered and so question how are Heineken hoping to increase their sales by creating it?

Pepsi is another example of brands trying to deliver more of a political message, rather than actually focusing on the product. However, with Pepsi, their ad overstepped the line of controversy and ended up being pulled.

Have brands forgotten the purpose of their marketing campaigns? Have we lost our commercial focus and somehow stepped into the shoes of some sort of political campaigner or missionary? In an era when businesses are a little uneasy with their spending, following events such as Brexit, and when marketing budgets need to be justified, surely we need to take a step back and review the ROI of this type of branding strategy.

In contrast to Ritson’s opinion, many other marketers have reviewed Heineken’s new ad as beautiful and inspiring, however nothing in their evaluation of it mentions the product, so surely they too are missing the point? The words of one Tweet, “I don’t drink beer. But maaaaybe I will now?” were particularly revealing. I don’t drink beer, no mention of Heineken. Suggesting that yes, this ad may lead you to think that problems can be resolved with a conversation over a beer, but the Heineken branding has been lost.

eSense had a look back at Heineken’s previous campaigns, as a comparison to today’s offering and found a quite different brand strategy. Back in the 1980’s, Heineken’s was well-known for its wit and innovation when promoting its brand. Look at, for example, the Heineken with the Dulex dog ad. Clear product promotion, with the added tagline, ‘Heineken refreshes the pets other beers cannot reach,’ this advert is one that Heineken is remembered for. Despite being around thirty years old, I still find this advert fun and enticing with a clear marketing purpose.

Not all marketers are so abstract in their campaigns today. Strongbow’s ‘Let’s own it- festival’ campaign completely contrasts that of the new Heineken ad. Plenty of product placement is used throughout the advert, alongside a lifestyle that the brand is probably hoping a lot of its audience will aspire to, hence leading them to purchase the product.

This week, another big brand got it so wrong that the Advertising Standards Authority is considering whether there are grounds to investigate the matter further. McDonalds used the sensitive issue of childhood bereavement to try to connect with its audience. An issue completely inappropriate to use for marketing purposes, the advert certainly caught the attention of the public and has caused a huge wave of complaints across social media and to bereavement charities. McDonalds has since pulled the ad and surely needs to go back to refocus on what they are looking to achieve from their campaigns and how they would like their brand to be viewed.

Having reviewed these differing approaches to a branding strategy, eSense offers some tips on how to create a campaign that speaks effectively to your audience, whilst still promoting your products.

Brand Values

Define your brand and what it stands for in your industry. This does not mean deciding upon your political viewpoints for your brand, unless relevant, but instead what you are offering your customers, for example value, high quality, niche products etc.

Audience Connection

Look to connect with your customer, but over a concept relating to the brand. For example, if you are marketing trainers, you may connect with the customers desire to run faster and how these trainers are able to help with that. Making an emotional connection in this way will also lead to brand loyalty.

Consistency and Inventiveness

Be consistent, but also be innovative. Consistency in what your brand stands for is important, as that will have drawn in your customers and changing this ethos may drive them away. However, don’t be afraid to try new techniques to promote your business to keep your audience engaged and also to draw in new business.

But don’t go too abstract

Remember your product. The big message following the review of this new wave of abstract adverts is not to forget your product. Find a happy medium. Promote the product in an appealing way that will draw in the customer, but is not so abstract that your brand is unclear or forgettable, thus losing the aim of the campaign.

If you’d like further guidance in putting together an effective brand strategy, eSense has branding experts who are ready to assist you with your next campaign. Our free initial consultation available to our new customers is also a great opportunity to help kick start your most effective marketing strategy and achieve the best possible ROI.


By Lorna Paice

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