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Sol beer takes ‘gamble’ and creates search platform to add ‘credibility’ to the brand

Heineken-owned beer brand Sol has launched a new search platform, Sol Search, as the Mexican beer looks to bring “credibility” to the brand and better tap into its core audience’s need.

The localised digital platform, which can be used on any device, suggests a variety of independent cafes, bars and restaurants to users looking for an alternative to large conglomerates.

While similar to Heineken’s @wherenext Twitter platform, which allows users to get instant restaurant and café suggestions based on geo-location, global brand manager Dave Shoemack told The Drum that Sol Search was conceived separately and when you “dig deeper” the idea behind it is quite different.

“Where next is for a younger consumer, it’s right now and what’s hot in the world at this moment and very spontaneous, while with Sol Search we’re talking to a more mature consumer, because at that age the need for freedom and independence is higher.

“Because Sol was born in independent Mexico we’ve always stood for freedom, and as you get deeper into your 30’s you get married, have children… but you have a lot less time for yourself."

Shoemack added that he hopes the platform will “add value in a small way” to Sol’s consumers by providing them with small exciting experiences, but also bring a voice and insight into the brand.

“The main reason [for creating the platform] is credibility. We’ve been around for 115 years and honestly we’ve never really said that much more than ‘we’re a Mexican beer and we’re about the sun and the beach’. So we’re trying to gain credibility as a brand and become a brand that our consumers really like and value.

“We’re not doing this specially to drive sales because when you look around the advertising and the site there’s not a bottle anywhere and that was quite purposeful because we knew that if we branded it too much then our guys would run a mile. Firstly you’ve got to help them in some way and then trust that they will reward you in the medium to long term.”

Sol Search is being supported with a €100k digital campaign, which includes interactive ads demonstrating how the platform works. While Shoemack admitted the investment is relatively low, he is confident that Sol “knows who the customer is and how to get to them”.

The search engine, which uses a bespoke algorithm to filter each result to only show independent options, is live in London and is set to launch in Sao Paolo next week with 10 more global cities planned for the future.

The launch is supported by a native ad deal with Monocle magazine, which has curated 20 independent locations across London as best-practice examples, and will feature five of the best independent retailers from each city the search engine is launched, alongside directions to the website.

Shoemack admits that launching Sol Search “is a gamble” as the beer brand isn’t making any revenue from the search engine. Instead it is hoped that it will eventually become a valuable asset to Sol as usage picks up.

“We don’t charge the retailers [who show up in results] anything, we don’t ask to know a single thing about the people using it, which is quite different to other search engines. We don’t have any advertising on the site and we definitely don’t make any money.

“It’s a gamble in the hope that this will cut through to our consumer in a way that other things can’t and they will reward us in the long term in brand equity and awareness. If it’s good enough and people really like the results and start talking about Sol Search then it becomes a really valuable asset to the brand.”

Success of Sol Search will be measured via spikes in awareness of the beer, the hits to the website and uptake of mentions on social media.

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