For the most part, beer branding is the same across the board. We’ve all grown accustomed to seeing raging parties in TV advertisements and half-naked women in bikinis plastered on boxes of beer at the liquor store. In the U.S., those images are typically accompanied by patriotic symbols like the American flag. This type of advertising has become the new normal, and causes all the beer brands to blur together a bit.
Recently, we’ve seen some global brands turn away from the stereotypical images associated with beer branding. Carlsberg, for instance, is rebranding and using its Danish roots to lure people into trying its beverage. Likewise, Heineken has also recently taken a different approach to marketing and, I have to say, it’s pretty brilliant.
The company’s #OpenYourWorld campaign does a lot of great things at once. First, it moves away from decades of typical beer ad content that we’ve gotten used to. Second, it brings up some important issues, but does so in a way that encourages discussion—unlike the unfortunate Pepsi ad that came out recently. Before we delve into these points, take a look at the advertisement for yourself.
Heineken positions the advertisement as a social experiment with one very simple end goal in mind: to get people to talk about their differences. It’s a common belief that there’s not much that can’t be solved when talking over a beer—friends are made, differences are resolved, etc. Heineken plays upon this point by bringing in groups of two that have differing opinions on important subjects in today’s world. The experiment occurs in stages. The pairs work together to put together a piece of equipment, then stop to talk with one another about their lives, then move on to another piece of equipment. They share intimate details about their lives, while building what turns out to be a bar. Once the bar is completed, they each grab a Heineken, then watch a prerecorded video where they discuss their views on a controversial topic—transgender rights, feminism, climate change and so on. They are then given the option to leave the room, or discuss their differing beliefs over a beer.
In every scenario, both parties decided to talk about their differences, indicating that personal opinions can be put aside and people can remain
civil once they get to know each other. The key element here is that they got to know each other over a beer which, as it turns out, is one of the best ways to get to know a person. Not only that, but recent studies show that short, casual, in-person conversations with someone of a differing opinion is one of the easiest ways to change someone’s mind.
With this ad, Heineken takes a sharp turn away from typical surface level marketing tactics, and instead digs deep and actually puts forth a political opinion about political opinions. Heineken is encouraging people to not just put their differences aside, but discuss them and learn more about each other—and that’s a powerful message and position for a company to take.
This is the absolutely perfect message for a beer company to make. People don’t have to go out socially with a giant group of friends to enjoy a beer, like so many ads indicate; instead, they can do so from the comfort of home and talk about important issues. Beer is good for both scenarios, the point being that it brings people together no matter where or who they are, and now we have an ad that reflects that fact.
The key component that makes this ad stand out so much, aside from Heineken’s breaking away from normal advertising methods, is how Heineken portrays the message. The social experiment was a clever idea that positions beer as helping solve a bigger problem, not completely solving the problem outright. I think that’s the error Pepsi made with its controversial ad a few weeks ago. When Kendall handed the police officer the Pepsi, that completely resolved all the problems and tension, which inevitably made viewers feel that their real world concerns were being mocked. Problems can’t actually be solved by giving someone a drink of any kind, and that’s where the Heineken and Pepsi ads differ. Heineken positioned beer as a catalyst to eye-opening discussions. Pepsi rudely insinuated that a soda could solve racial tensions in America. There’s a big difference there, and that’s why the feeling you get while viewing both ads is notably different.
Since this ad is completely void of parties and half-naked women, but rather promotes acceptance and discussion, Heineken has set itself apart from other beer companies. The ad leaves viewers with a sense of peace and happiness, which will undoubtedly result in more shares on social media and more positive publicity for the company. So go ahead and grab a Heineken, raise your glass, and talk about the things that matter.