Heineken Goes Local

March 13, 2018
Heineken’s signature green bottle and red star is pure marketing iconography. This world-renowned beer was founded in 1864 by Gerard Adriaan Heineken, and is now part of an industry-leading, global enterprise that boasts such heavy-hitting brands as Heineken Light, Dos Equis, Tecate and Strongbow Hard Cider. Heineken USA (HUSA) is successful because of their brands’ appeal to specific demographics in the communities they target. From Heineken’s pure European pilsner, to Tecate’s full-bodied Mexican cerveza, this portfolio has tremendous appeal and potential. Trends show beer drinkers drifting away from high ABV, uber-crafty beers. Instead they are looking for value and quality, both of which are right in Heineken’s wheelhouse.
With many of these brands growing by double digits in 2017, you would think HUSA’s strategy for 2018 would be to keep their marketing eye on the “big-picture” and continue to reap the benefits of their international reputation. However, Heady Times caught up with Heineken’s Regional Marketing Manager Michelle M. Sauer who shared that, in actuality, they’re doing just the opposite: they’re going local!
While most international beer brands have a history of approaching local markets by integrating a certain city’s name, skyline or local slang into their marketing and point of sale, Sauer explains how HUSA digs deeper.
“Being local isn’t just about having local POS or a neon that connects Heineken [to a certain market]. Going local is about finding opportunities to give back to the community where we are connecting with our consumers.”
For HUSA that includes supporting local events like Philadelphia’s Unity Cup, a soccer tournament held over several months that “unites the city’s neighborhoods and celebrates its diverse immigrant communities through soccer,” says Sauer. Heineken is investing in similar events across the country, allowing HUSA to, “support a local event that brings its community together.”
Data shows the strategy is working. After a few years of weak sales, Heineken came back strong in 2017, and is continuing that growth in 2018. By making their focus hyper-local, HUSA is effectively reintroducing their products to consumers who want to support brands that support their community. 
An example of Heineken’s hyper-local focus is their storied support of local soccer clubs, ranging from MLS to Champions League and the International Champions Cup. Heineken’s dedication to these soccer clubs speaks to their ability to be an elite international brand with local relevance. “We’re proud to be a part of each team we support,” says Sauer.
Heineken’s community engagement also includes support of local musicians and artists through their new Heineken Green Room music platform. These impressive monthly happenings, curated by the HUSA team at local on-premise accounts, will showcase “really cool up-and-coming musicians, providing inside access.” Who can you expect to see highlighted at Green Room events? Sauer says Heineken can’t release any specific names quite yet, but promises events that are “cool for Heineken drinkers and music lovers alike. We want everyone to be a part of an intimate experience… but in a trendy, hip Heineken way.”
What else is in store for HUSA’s brands in 2018? Plenty! With more and more consumers looking for a refreshing beer, while also being health conscious, HUSA believes it’s a perfect time to reintroduce Heineken Light. This year, expect to see a major marketing focus on Heineken Light dubbed, “Sometimes Lighter is Better”. Its intent, Sauer says is, “To remind consumers how great Heineken Light tastes, and that you don’t have to compromise taste to enjoy a 99 calorie beer. It’s an option for consumers to enjoy Heineken, rather than a glass of wine or a higher caloric drink like a margarita.”
Strongbow is positioned to make a play for similar consumers with their new Rosé cider. It’s no secret that all-things rosé are on fire right now. Sauer feels Strongbow Rosé fits a perfect niche and is “a great option to offer cider and wine drinkers.” This semi-dry cider is light and fruity like a rosé wine, but “with a more refreshing taste. It’s Rosé all day!” 
But the secret weapon in HUSA’s arsenal is Tecate, with growth that has straight up exploded in the last few years. Consumers see Tecate as an affordable, great-tasting beer with a level of authenticity that other brands would kill for. Some say Tecate’s overtaking Pabst Blue Ribbon as the new “hipster” beer of choice. But Tecate and Tecate Light aren’t only for the tatted up bearded guy who rides a fixie. 
To expand Tecate’s reach, HUSA is focusing on two marketing platforms in 2018: Boxing and Food Pairing. Sauer explains, “Tecate has partnered with Golden Boy Boxing and has two lead boxers, Canelo and GGG, in Tecate’s corner all year long. A one-two punch you could say! And the food angle is an opportunity to showcase how great Tecate is during any grilling occasion. The guy who mans the grill this summer can be bold and enjoy a Tecate at the same time.”

Heineken USA has an aggressive game plan for 2018 and the company has a unique strategy to bring these products and programs to market with a distinctly local flair. Expect to see HUSA brands partnered with local organizations and community events, directly connecting with consumers. For a company with a successful, global presence, going local might just be their most innovative strategy yet.
HUSA Support for 2018
Heineken USA not only has a portfolio of the nation’s leading upscale imports, they also continue to create innovative programs to support their beers.
Later this year, Heineken will introduce their new 18-pack Cooler Pack – this is the value pack consumers have been clamoring for.
Tecate is the Official Beer of Boxing and soon consumers can claim their corner with a chance to win a premium, at-home viewing system to watch the Canelo V. Golovkin fight.
With all things rosé tearing it up at retail, Strongbow Rosé Hard Cider is positioned to be a knockout hit!
Dos Equis marketing for 2018 will pivot away from the Most Interesting Man in the World and instead remind consumers why Dos Equis is the Most Interesting BEER in the World!
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