Heineken's global lead of digital strategy and media innovation, Jeremy Brook, discusses the challenges of marketing an alcohol brand, the importance of social media to a good digital strategy and this year's key trends for digital marketing ahead of judging the 2013 DADI Awards .
How do you manage the restraints placed on digitally marketing an alcohol brand?
Heineken is famous for its aspirational, cool, shareable digital content but we also have a role to responsibly tell a positive story of beer. We manage restrictions through all our owned platforms using age gate technology associated with the industry’s advertising regulations. As a marketer of a product enjoyed by adults, we are committed to having a clear direction on our target audience and our digital content strategy is tailored as such. We have expert internal teams across the world who actively collaborate with our regulatory partners and stakeholders to ensure we are compliant and the appropriate protocols are in place
Does working for a drinks brand offer more challenges when it comes to digital marketing?
Marketing alcohol comes with challenges, whatever the space. However, Heineken is not afraid to be different. Our commitment to pushing the boundaries of what is possible in the digital space is driven by a need to overcome the communication challenges we face as a global brand. We have specific digital guidelines that help us translate our responsible communication code to the digital age that ensure we are innovative but careful at the same time. This for example explains how we age gate much of our activity and how we navigate new platforms as they arise. Digital marketing gives us the flexibility to operate at a global and local level, enabling us to navigate specific market challenges such as commercial freedom restrictions.
Do you feel social media is an important part of any brands digital strategy these days?
As the media landscape becomes more fragmented and our consumer’s world increasingly multi-screen, the one opportunity to truly establish a real time connection with consumers and understand their world, is through a strong social strategy. The nature of social marketing allows us to develop a consistent storytelling narrative, but it needs to be one that is participatory, not an extension of above-the-line communications.Successful social storytelling strategy is about building real brand equity through real conversations that shape real commercial objectives.
How open can a brand like Heineken be on social media and how do you deal with challenges such as underage followers?
As an alcohol brand we have restrictions on openness, but through our inventive approach, we ensure that this doesn’t impact our creativity and engaging with our adult consumers. We continue to invest in responsible communications across all our social platforms, seeking innovative ways to promote social change and responsible drinking behaviour amongst our consumers and their communities. We manage this through all our owned platforms, which have age gate technology associated with alcohol advertising regulations.
Coming from an agency background how does that affect your vision for Heineken and do you think moving from agency to brand gives you a different perspective?
I think the benefit of an agency background is that I have been a campaigner for the role of digital as part of an integrated mix for over 10 years. I’ve personally been part of the evolution of how agencies build skills and capabilities in digital and social for most of that time. Now as global brands are facing the fresh challenges of how to incorporate social storytelling into their brand building behaviours, I can leverage those years of experience.
On the whole in terms of digital marketing and digital strategy what are the key trends you’re noticing this year?
What we are seeing is a departure from using digital as an extension of a brand’s advertising strategy or a place to host above-the-line communication, towards fully embedding digital strategically across all communications, Company and brand, internal and external. Moving from linear to real time engagement via a three dimensional conversation that travels between the paid, owned, earned space, delivered consistently across all social platforms. Working in a more authentic and participatory way with advocates to leverage their social communities to enable the promotion of positive messages about product and brand. Mobile is increasingly dictating marketing strategy, particularly in emerging markets, where it is the means of communication for over 85 per cent of our target audience.
As a judge at this year’s DADI Awards what will you be looking for from entrants?
I would love to be presented with clear and obvious challenges that have been handled in surprising and innovative ways. Simple.
How will your experience at Heineken influence your judging?
The only way I think it can affect me is that I am exposed to a lot of creativity everyday. With over 70 countries active on Heineken Brand alone (HEINEKEN has over 200 brands in its portfolio) I see a lot of great ideas.
Do you have any advice for entrants?
Don’t forget that entries are also marketing. A great idea badly told is often equal to a bad idea told brilliantly. And of course it’s only great ideas that are brilliantly told that win.
More information on the DADI awards can be found on the official website.