Magazine article Marketing

Only Heineken Can Do This

Magazine article Marketing

Only Heineken Can Do This

Article excerpt

Only Heineken can do this

Heineken's return to its 70s slogan does not mean the new ad campaign will have an old-fashioned treatment. Mat Toor and Paul Meller find the key is a strategy based on taste

Whitbread has revamped the advertising strategy for its flagship Heineken brand for the second time in two years and reverted to the 1974 slogan "Heineken refreshes the parts other beers cannot reach".

The new ads which break this Saturday signify more than a nostalgic interlude or an interim strategy which went off the rails.

According to Whitbread and its ad agency Lowe Howard-Spink (LH-S) a sea change is occurring in the 6 billion [pounds] lager market and brands that don't go with the flow are in for one hell of a hangover.

The strategy is based on product values -- "Refreshes is the key word", says LH-S managing director David Wheldon. The move away from the traditional lager ad format -- which people say developed because the products themselves all taste the same -- is essential if brands want to remain competitive over the next decade.

"The real difference is that we now have a strategy of substance," says Wheldon. "In the 80s lager ads pretty much became sponsored jokes."

Whitbread marketing director Stephen Philpott says that the shake up of the lager market will force the remaining brands to reconsider their advertising.

"We believe there will be five brands in the next decade: Carling, Heineken, Foster's, Castlemaine and Carlsberg. All others are fading. So now more than ever we need stronger brands that are well advertised."

Heineken is the second biggest brand behind Carling in the market. In September 1989 it trimmed (some say "butchered") its 17-year-old slogan. "Only Heineken can do this because Heineken refreshes the parts other beers cannot reach" became "Only Heineken can do this" and the minute-long ads were replaced with snappy 10 and 20 second executions.

At the time, Whitbread claimed the new strategy fitted in with "today's faster living lager drinker who is used to much shorter, sharper communication".

But 18 months is a long time in the lager market. Wheldon describes the campaign as a "short, sharp shock" designed to see off Australian upstarts like Foster's (which nearly outsold Heineken in the ontrade in 1989) and Castlemaine XXXX.

"Without sounding pompous, those 10 second ads were the summation of the 80s -- very |me' driven indeed". He says the campaign arrested Heineken's "slide down the slippery slope" which has caught brands like Skol and Harp. But he says the campaign simply did not fit in with the "gentler kinder beer drinker" of the 90s.

However, one major brand, Foster's, has already gone down this route. The "Pass it on" campaign in which Burt Lancaster replaced the wisecracking Paul Hogan also embraced those very same "90s values". BMP DDB Needham lost the account.

Doesn't that prove that the "caring sharing" lager drinker is, to put it bluntly, a contradiction in terms? …

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