Westchester's Most Innovative Businesses: Heineken USA in White Plains

Rethinking the Paradigm in Beer Marketing

In December 2010, amidst industry-wide declining sales, Heineken USA completely reinvented its approach to beer marketing. “Consumers were becoming more sophisticated,” says Chief Marketing Officer Lesya Lysyj, “and we needed to adapt accordingly.”

Thus the White Plains-based company shifted its beer marketing strategy away from conventional beer messaging of frat-boy humor and scantily clad women to capture upscale drinkers. The Heineken brands’ “Legends” campaign, for instance, features a couple in evening wear making their way through a classy nightclub. It shows off Baroque costuming, elaborate interiors, and dance numbers. Like the wildly popular “Most Interesting Man in the World” campaign of Heineken’s recently acquired Dos Equis brand or its Newcastle Brown Ale “No Bollocks” campaign, the commercials are ostensibly international and memorably tongue-in-cheek—a definite departure from the shots of women in bikinis running on the beach that were a staple of older beer marketing.

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Even potentially riskier, the beer company shifted its primary focus from television to social media. Lysyj says that making the decision to reinvent beer marketing was “what we like to call a ‘Be Brave’ moment,” she says. Instead of putting advertisements on television first, Heineken USA launched advertisements online months ahead of their TV counterparts. “Our second ad in this new campaign, ‘The Date,’ debuted on YouTube four months before it was ever seen on television, and by then, it already had more than four million views,” Lysyj says.

Heineken’s brand innovation has been hugely successful. Since the launch of the first digital campaign, Heineken has become the most referenced beer brand on Twitter (among its competitive set). Even more telling, the beer company has seen 12 consecutive months of increased sales for its Heineken brand.

So what’s next? “We can’t share too much at this time, but the next installment in our Heineken ‘Legends’ campaign will be launching this fall, with the ultimate ‘Man of the World,’ James Bond,” Lysyj says.

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