Magazine article Marketing

Brewing Passion

Magazine article Marketing

Brewing Passion

Article excerpt

John Derkach's taste in drinks says something about his personality. A burly, plain-speaking Northerner, it comes as no surprise that he enjoys a pint or two of Boddingtons. Yet as the years have passed, he has developed a taste for Stella Artois, revealing a cultured, more upmarket side to his nature.

As marketing director of Whitbread Beer Company, Derkach is all too familiar with these stereotypes, using them to classify people along the lines of his brands, which include Beddingtons, Murphy's, Stella, Labatt and the recently revamped Heineken. But, he argues, this categorisation is getting harder as consumer behaviour changes.

"Experimental behaviour, repertoire drinking - there are lots of posh words for it - basically no one's a Tetley's bitter man for life anymore. As people move between the categories they're more reliant on strong brands to guide their choice," says Derkach.

Hence the Heineken revamp. Before this month, Heineken had not been advertised on TV for five years. The belief was that premium lager would increase at the expense of standard lager. This has since proved to be unfounded, prompting a shift of emphasis back behind standard brands.

The new campaign features two ads, one a violent version of Pride and Prejudice and the other a humorous anecdote about road-digging. The real surprise is that the 24-year-old strapline, 'Refreshes the parts other beers cannot reach', has been dropped.

So why change one of the most famous straplines in advertising history? "We wanted to continue to communicate Heineken's refreshing qualities but not in a way that compelled us always to tell the same joke. The new line 'How refreshing, how Heineken' allows us to escape the mechanics of the previous advertising," says Derkach.

The change was not without its problems. Intelligent and headstrong, Derkach makes sure he gets what he wants. He laughingly admits to having heated debates with Lowe Howard-Spink, the agency producing the campaign.

"He pushes us hard," acknowledges Tim Lindsey, managing director of Lowe Howard-Spink.

"He can be slightly capricious in his judgement but the ends justify the means when you look at the success of the campaigns," he adds.

"He's opinionated and strong-minded. We can disagree but it's healthy because the debate is open and honest," says Bruce Crouch, creative director at Battle Bogle Hegarty, handles Beddingtons and Murphy's for Whitbread. …

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