How Heineken’s social data is putting the ‘relationship’ back in CRM

Brewer’s social CRM sees shift in focus from impressions to relationship-building conversations.

There’s a lot of fun to be had publishing entertaining content on social networks but it’s a practice baked in customer management not engagement, a dynamic Heineken has flipped to better identify high value fans.

The Dutch brewer’s UK arm has put social CRM at the heart of its online strategy instead of what it calls “social posting”. It means rather than churn out shots of beer glasses and links from its latest ad like other brewers, Heineken wants social media to become a foundation for future customer experiences, whether that’s online or offline.

And giving loyal supporters the “Star Treatment” is its way of doing just that. Devised in partnership with agency Possible, the brewer’s plan leverages its ties to properties such as the Champions League and the James Bond franchise to give fans memorable experiences after it found its audience love the humble brag – using social media to share a little bit about themselves and what they get up to in their lives.

From exclusive parties through last summer's “Star Access” to free Heineken beer in pubs through this year's “Star Tabs”, the strategy has been sharpened since 2013 and now it is bringing targeted mobile ads into the fold. Not surprisingly, the company uses Facebook and Twitter to steer people to the “Star Treatment” site where they sign up for the offers and now it is looking to mobile ads to drive more of that traffic.

Mobile ads are being targeted to “Star Treatment” loyalists, potentially allowing them to find out where certain exclusive events are happening at the last minute or receiving a voucher they can then redeem in pubs or at their local shop. The nature of offering money can’t buy experiences, which has meant Heineken has had to be mindful of how it scales the CRM platform without diluting its desirability and so impromptu mobile ads are one of way balancing that reach with value.

This also extends to those people who are loyal to the brand but have not yet been rewarded. The brewer is exploring ways to “surprise and delight” those people who regularly enter Star Treatment competitions but are yet to win anything.

“One of the things we didn’t want to do was just post on social media and focus on impressions because then you’re not giving something back to people and that would completely be against what we set out to do,” said David Lette, premium brands director at Heineken. “Our big challenge was not to be like every other brand by just building a big fanbase and just focusing on clicks so that we keep them online without taking them offline into the real world.”

Heineken normally hits fans once a month with a message around this scheme though this is backed with further promotions around the activities and increasingly post-event communications.

Additionally, all the links in its Facebook and Twitter posts have been tagged with a unique identifier, allowing its strategists to see how people are reacting to the timing, creative and subject matter of offers and then tweak accordingly. This has played a key role in developing Heineken’s Champions League activity, which has shifted from being shaped around the semi-final and final matches to being more expansive over its nine-month season.

Lette describes this approach as trying to ensure that Heineken’s social media posts always offer something of value in someone’s feed rather than frippery.

While social CRM and automation are still far removed from another, given the latter’s focus on banners, Heineken sees potential for better community building when the two eventually come together. Its media agency Starcom Mediavest is using “Star Treatment” to inform its wider data-driven marketing across the region, including its “Open Your City” global campaign and upcoming Rugby World Cup sponsorship.

Lette said social CRM was a way to bring all its platforms together and teased “exciting” plans for rugby in the build up to the tournament later this summer.

“Star Treatments is driving our social agenda [in the UK] now,” he continued. Three years ago the Heineken brand hardly did any social, digital work in the UK. From day one it’s been about how we take people from the online to the real world because that’s where we believe you can really create that loyalty by getting them to say and share amazing things about the brand.”

To do this, the Heineken had to be able to have its own take on the difference between traditional CRM and social CRM. For the beer brewer it's the need to maintain a relationship with not just the customers it sells to, but the entire community around the brand. The ubiquity of social in peoples’ lives has meant people take smaller steps down the sales funnel, pushing Heineken to work out how to give them the special attention they feel their loyalty deserves.

The value of this has been easier to quantify in brand equity than sales though Lette hailed the strategy’s impact on both.

For the first time since the first quarter last year, Heineken’s latest quarterly brand equity scores among its targeted audience have outscored its rivals with double-digit growth. Five per cent of clicks were generated from its target audience, of these 25 per cent signed up to “Star Treatment”, while 48 million impressions were generated over the last 12 months.

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