Heineken’s Campaign: Opening Bottles and Minds

Stumbling across a great commercial can feel a lot like winning during the Tim Hortons’ Roll Up The Rim campaign. As a consumer, you are aware of all the potential prizes available and after  a few double-doubles, you know the chances of winning have increased. When you finally win a free coffee or doughnut, the momentary triumph has you driving back to Tim Horton’s in hopes of another.

This same temptation, to overlook risks in hopes of rewards, frequently applies to the world of advertising. It is every marketer’s challenge to strike the balance between conveying influential messages and pleasing their audience. For the most part, paid advertising during one’s favourite show generates the same twinge of annoyance as a “Please Play Again” Roll Up The Rim outcome. The only difference is that usually we do not want the commercial to “play again”. Despite frequent disappointment, we occasionally discover a winning commercial which transcends the rest.

Creating a sensational commercial is no easy feat. Marketers must balance two warring initiatives. First, they have to capture their audience’s attention enough to be memorable and effective. Next, they need to communicate the value of their product or service in a persuasive manner to achieve their desired goals. These goals can be as simple as differentiating from competitors or increasing customer awareness to drive sales.

A brand that recently knocked it out of the park on each of the preceding initiatives is Heineken. The marketing team at Heineken UK cleverly combined the task of communicating value and deftly broached a difficult subject matter in a deeply meaningful and even entertaining way.

If you have not seen the commercial yet, watch it below!

‘Worlds Apart’ is the first in a series of advertisements that Heineken has created to encourage empathetic discussion and compassionate human interaction over something as simple as sharing a beer. They have partnered with the non-for-profit organization, The Human Library, who “work to use conversation to challenge stereotypes” and show how a little empathy, openness and common ground can go a long way (The Human Library, 2017).  

Creating politically charged advertisements is never easy. The result of an advertisement with political undertones is either met with public appraisal or outcry. The digital age we live in makes it easier than ever for content to be exposed to harsh criticism. Marketers need to be cognizant of the social and political environment around them to create content that positively resonates with their audience. After watching ‘Worlds Apart’, I have outlined four key components that attributed to its success below:

1)  Keeping it Simple:

The commercial is not overly complicated and instead Heineken lets each pair’s stories take center stage. The simplicity of the commercial creates a sense of credibility and sincerity. The introduction of Heineken’s product is timed and executed perfectly. The presentation of the beer  showcases Heineken’s message of unity: that a Heineken beer can bring even the most divided individuals together for an open conversation. The commercial is refreshingly simple and allows the audience to fully absorb the key message while reinforcing the product’s ability to bring people together.

2) Specificity:

Heineken fearlessly dives head-first into subject matter that is often depicted as incredibly sensitive and controversial. Taking risks to be explicit about issues like transphobia, feminism and climate change succeeds in catching the attention of their target market. Heineken works towards capturing the attention of a segment of people who desire change and want to engage in meaningful conversations. People frequently use the internet to voice opinions and engage in heated discussions over subjects similar to those expressed in ‘Worlds Apart’. The advertisement is extremely effective in persuading people to communicate face-to-face and openly discuss these issues while enjoying a beer. Hearing genuine opinions from participants is shocking, but the raw and open nature of the commercial is exactly what Heineken’s audience for this commercial wanted and needed to hear.

3) Target Market Lockdown:

A crucial step to creating a successful campaign is to accurately understand your audience.  There is no doubt that Heineken clearly has a thorough understanding of their target market. The campaign targets those with strong opinions on controversial topics and the beer provides them with an opportunity to share those opinions. Interestingly enough, Heineken tailors their commercials to certain segments of their market depending on the content of each campaign. Heineken is surprisingly in tune with each of their segments which speaks to why they have been able to effectively relate to their audience. By having a deep understanding of what matters to their customers, Heineken can step outside the box when crafting their advertisements while still yielding outstanding success.

4) Engagement, Empathy and Entertainment:

In the span of four short minutes, Heineken creates enough anticipation and intrigue to keep their audience watching until the very end. In the past, marketers have found it difficult to keep an audience engaged for more than thirty seconds. Heineken manages to keep the audience engaged through captivating entertainment. Without the entertainment factor, consumers would not comprehend the message Heineken is trying to communicate or the product they are trying to sell. Additionally, the empathetic approach they use to communicate this message is another crucial component for success. Cindy Tervoort, the Director of Marketing for Heineken UK, expressed “Heineken wanted to not just say we believe in openness, but seek to prove that even the most divided people can open up when they find something that connects them” (Tervoort, 2017). The commercial highlights how conversations can be rooted in openness, rather than animosity, no matter how disputable they may be.

Final Thoughts:

Despite the commercial’s success, there are still questions regarding the value that Heineken gains from advertising endeavors such as ‘Worlds Apart’. Are they experiencing increased awareness, engagement or sales? Will they be able to continue to deliver the same level of authenticity to additional commercials in the remainder of the #OpenYourWorld campaign? While there are still questions surrounding the impact of the campaign, there is no question that Heineken accomplished exactly what they set out to do: encourage discussion and reflection, even for a few minutes. And hey, maybe the next time you are conversing with someone else you might just think to open a Heineken while you’re at it!

Megan Latham is a third year commerce student at Smith School of Business and this year’s Content Manager for the Queen’s Marketing Association. Megan has a passion for influential marketing and women’s rights. When she’s not searching up new content for The Nucleus, you can find her with her nose in a book!

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