Heineken is getting rid of taglines in a new marketing strategy that sees it embrace clichés and appeal to millennials.
Heineken’s ‘Open Your World’ tagline has been around since 2011, with campaigns under the strapline helping it win two Cannes Lions awards. But when the brand conducted its annual brand testing last year it found that for the first time the campaign wasn’t working.
That was because the target 25- to 34-year-old consumer had shifted, meaning the messaging, which Heineken says was based on the insight that “to progress in life you must cross your border”, was no longer interpreted as inspirational but pressuring.
Speaking to Marketing Week, Gianluca Di Tondo, senior director of the global Heineken brand, explains: “When the core of our target audience was millennials for the first time we got a push back because ‘you must cross your border’ is an instruction coming from a brand.
“Millennials are interesting because for the first time you have the same typology of people around the world. This generation feels more pressure because of that. They believe that the previous generation broke the world in many ways – from climate change to the economy – and they feel the responsibility of having to save it. ‘You must cross your border’ was simply another a layer of pressure that we were putting on top of them.”
This realisation prompted a rethink. It took them “ages”, says Di Tondo, but eventually decided that the new positioning should focus on helping its consumers enjoy life, meaning for the first time its strategy focused on the product over the brand.
Di Tondo says: “For a brand like Heineken, a revolution never works it has to be an evolution. We looked at our previous campaigns and saw that one of the recurring themes was the way the brand was inviting the consumer to look at life. We decided the best purpose we had was very much correlated to the product this time. We believe if you look at a life with a positive and fresh perspective it will be easier to find a way to fix things. So take a breath and smile.”
Moving on from ‘Open Your World’
Heineken will be running a series of TV commercials aligned with the new strategy, including for its sponsorships of the UFEA Champions League, Formula 1 and Rugby World Cup. The campaigns feature “no taglines” instead the brand takes a cliché and twists it, with every creative ending with ‘That’s Heineken’.
“The Heineken twist is the idea that you can lift and twist on a cliché. We crystallise our view on a sentence, for example our Formula 1 campaign ‘a great team is always a team of four’ (based on the idea that F1 is a solo sport) and then we put another sentence ‘that’s Heineken’ which connects directly that sentence with the brand,” says Di Tondo.
Despite the need for an overhaul of the marketing strategy, Di Tondo says “millenials make my job easier” as the demographic has overarching values that cross borders.
He explains: “I’ve been doing marketing for 20 years and for the first time I have an audience that is completely different from previous ones and they make my life easier. The notion of purpose has emerged everywhere, including in developing markets which we were not expecting. Usually you have cultural difference in developed and developing markets but today millennials are very similar. If you live in Nigeria or the US, this layer of stress is the same.
For a brand like Heineken, a revolution never works it has to be an evolution.
Gianluca Di Tondo, Heineken
“It’s easier to find a common denominator across them. In the past, I had to give 50/50 global/local. Today, in most of the markets, I can go 80/20. If you crack global insight well you only need a bit of localisation that digital will make simple.”
Heineken’s audience is not the only thing that has changed. How the beer brand approaches media has also evolved to take into account digital.
Di Tondo explains: “When I took over six years ago, the job was to deliver a good TV campaign. But now out of TV you have 300 plus digital content pieces. That’s the big revolution. TV still plays quite a big role across our market but digital is getting more important and interesting.“
Heineken describes its longer videos (between 30 and 60 seconds) for YouTube and TV as “ear content” and the digital content lasting three, six or 10 seconds as “satellite content”.
Di Tondo explains: “It has the same cliché and communication strategy but for the small screen. Every time you approach digital you need to adapt your creativity. It’s exciting because now that we are getting more data driven the data will inspire the creativity because depending who you are the digital legs can be different.”
The importance of agency relationships
With brands in FMCG and elsewhere rethinking agency relationships, Di Tondo argues that having an important agency relationship is crucial when revamping a marketing strategy, something which means he will never consider in-housing creative.
He explains: “The relationship you have with your advertising agency is the most strategic relationship you can have because on the side of the company you tend to change your people in marketing quite quickly while the agency keeps the brand grounded. We are the ones that challenge them to evolve and they are the ones who grind the consistency. That way it is always an evolution and never a revolution.”
When looking for inspiration, Di Tondo says he never looks at the beer market: “Nike is always inspiring, I like Ikea and Burger King. I also look to car manufacturing for how they use data and driving at scale. It’s a never-ending job to look outside for source inspiration.”