Picture: HEINEKEN
Picture: HEINEKEN

Beer brand Heineken recently wrapped up a hugely successful experiential campaign, and fans are said to want more of the same.

Globally, Heineken invests significantly in experiential campaigns, a strategy that allows the brand to connect with consumers and to drive its brand proposition “Open Your World”.

Picture: HEINEKEN
Picture: HEINEKEN

Locally, Heineken SA adapted the company’s global City campaign, which was held in New York, Amsterdam and London, for the local market. “For SA we focused on Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban and during the last few months of 2016 we invited people to vote for the city they believed should be awarded a #City Shaping experience,” explains Heineken SA marketing manager, Themba Ratsibe.

After Cape Town garnered the most votes, Heineken partnered with influencers, creatives, a graffiti artist and even engineers from the city to create an experience reflecting the Mother City’s culture.  “Together with our local partners we set out to discover a forgotten space in the city which we reshaped and transformed for a two-week celebration in the last two weeks of January,” says Ratsibe.

Picture: HEINEKEN
Picture: HEINEKEN

The campaign, he explains, buys into Heineken’s tagline. “The #City Shaping experience was about encouraging our fans to step out of their comfort zones, open themselves up to new opportunities and try different things in these spaces. Ultimately it was about celebrating their city.”

For the duration of the “experience” the CBD’s Namaqua Building in Albertus Street was transformed with 3D mapping, a sound stage featuring local artists and a night market selling foods and drinks. Entrance to the celebration was free for anybody who had registered online to attend.

Picture: HEINEKEN
Picture: HEINEKEN

Heineken is known as a brand that understands how to harness the power of social media. In the campaign build-up, Heineken focused on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to encourage fans to vote for their city of choice. The company also posted content about the build-up events hosted in each city, which provided fans with a taste of what the final event would entail. During the event itself – hosted over two weekends – the brand posted relevant content via social media. This content was eventually shared by consumers as the event started gaining momentum.

“Both weekends were a huge success,” reports Ratsibe. “We trended for 15 hours on social media the first weekend and trended again the second weekend. This really was due to the huge support we had on all three nights of the event, with over 1,700 people attending. Heineken fans are asking for more such events. Our challenge is how we continue to offer these differentiated experiences.”

What worked so well with the #City Shaping experience was that Heineken SA was given the latitude to adapt the global campaign for the local market. “When you’re part of a global organisation it’s easy to take a global campaign and simply roll it out in whatever market you find yourself in,” says Ratsibe. “However, at Heineken we subscribe to the philosophy that every campaign must be locally relevant, otherwise it is not going to connect with consumers.”

Picture: HEINEKEN
Picture: HEINEKEN

Ensuring local relevance is possible only if a brand understands who its consumers are. Ratsibe says Heineken makes a considerable effort in this regard, not only through formal research, which he believes can sometimes be contrived, but through on-the-ground interaction with consumers in relaxed social settings.

Though the experiential approach may seem to constitute the bulk of Heineken’s marketing, it’s not the biggest component, says Ratsibe. “However, we do view it as an extremely important as it allows us to drive our brand proposition and by providing fans with an experience, it allows consumers to relate to the brand.”

The big take-out: Unique experiential events allow Heineken to drive its brand proposition. 

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