Heineken on how it made creativity part of its DNA

Heineken is picking up the creative marketer of the year award at this year’s Cannes Lions Festival for the second time. Here the brand’s senior director of the global Heineken brand Gianluca Di Tondo talks to Marketing Week about how it makes creativity part of the brand and nurtures upcoming talent.

Heineken is only the second company to be awarded the top brand honour at Cannes twice. The Festival’s chief executive, Philip Thomas, says the award recognises how Heineken is “breaking the boundaries of creativity” and proves that the company “truly believes that creativity drives business and can improve the state of the world”.

“Heineken lives and breathes creativity throughout its organisation and has a superb framework that allows its marketing teams the freedom to experiment while retaining the core essence of their many brands.”

That shows in how many Cannes awards Heineken has won over the last three years alone.

In total six of its brands have won 41 awards including the Grand Prix in creative effectiveness in 2013 for the “Heineken Legendary Journey” campaign.

Di Tondo said the secret to the brands success is having creativity as a founding principle of the brand and integrated across “its DNA”. It does that, he said, by putting in place programmes such as its “global commerce university” which trains employees in what creativity looks like for the brand and its new “talent lab”.

“Heineken is a supporter and incubator of creative talent. We invest in and reward innovative ideas, curiosity and entrepreneurship. This helps us continue to tell powerful brand stories,” said Di Tondo.

Heineken has now won the creative marketer award twice, what is the secret to the brand’s success?

Creativity is in our DNA. We recognise that investing in creativity provides us with a competitive advantage by allowing us to build strong brands, tell compelling stories and attract the best people. Since Freddy Heineken originally received the Creative Marketer of the Year Award at Cannes 20 years ago, the world and the way brands communicate within it, has fundamentally changed. Heineken’s marketing has too, so it’s with special pride that we receive this prestigious award again this year.

How does Heineken ensure creativity is integrated across the business?

Creativity is a founding principle of Heineken’s company culture and we have put in place programmes and initiatives that reflect this. These include the Global Commerce University learning programme – where creativity is embraced as a driver of competitive advantage – which has seen nearly 6,000 Heineken employee graduates to date. Most recently, we have launched Talent Lab – a new HEINEKEN co-creation initiative that gives upcoming talent in five countries the chance to work alongside us to help to promote and stimulate responsible consumption. The goal of Talent Lab is to bring together creative talent from different backgrounds and disciplines to inspire new and unexpected ways of thinking to find fresh solutions to established problems.

Why is creativity so important to Heineken?

Creativity is what allows us to tell stories that make people think, share and engage with our brands. We recognise that there are a lot brands competing for consumers’ attention. By pushing ourselves and our partners to be curious, take risks and embrace innovation, we are better positioned to build powerful brand stories that travel.

How do you stay ahead of the market both in term of creative ideas and platforms to work with?

Heineken is a supporter and incubator of creative talent. We invest in and reward innovative ideas, curiosity and entrepreneurship. This helps us continue to tell powerful brand stories.

What does a successful campaign look like for Heineken?

A successful campaign for Heineken entertains, makes people think twice or even acts as a catalyst for social change.

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