How Heineken refreshed its sales with real-time data

Mobilising and applying real-time data were central to the success of Project FlyWheel.

Dentsu Redstar was highly commended in the FMCG category of The Drum Marketing Awards 2020 with its work for Heineken. Here, the team behind the entry reveal the challenges faced and strategies used to deliver this successful project…

The challenge

Flashback to 2010, Heineken-owned Fosters has just debuted its iconic ‘Good Call’ advert on our screens, pushing sales to unprecedented levels and cementing the phrase ‘g’day’ into the British consciousness. It was a fantastically simple idea, and so was the communications model that Heineken employed across its portfolio e.g. create a wonderfully crafted and engaging TV advert that puts a smile on peoples’ faces, then close the deal with standout point of sale at the pumps.

But as is so often the story something changed, or in this case two things:

  • TV viewership started to decline making it harder for their spectacular advertising to build memory structure.
  • The craft revolution spawned thousands of new beers whose brightly coloured logos and catchy names fought hard for share of pint at the pumps.

Put bluntly, the reliable communication model started to faulter and Heineken’s ability to close the deal became a little less certain.

To fight and win in this new world, Heineken needed to create a new communications model that would increase sales, and which could be scaled across the entire portfolio:

• Business objective: drive incremental footfall into pubs that sell Heineken brands and sales of those brands.

• Learning Objective: Understand the drivers of footfall and sales

The strategy

This is the story of how Heineken and Red Star reshaped how beer is advertised within the UK, creating the ability to monitor beer sales in real time and used individualised data-driven marketing to deliver instant results across an entire portfolio. It is the story of how Heineken adopted an ecommerce mindset and pulled more pints in the process.

Heineken required a model built on feedback loops, using fast-moving metrics and real-time sales data to understand the needs, wants, likes, and habits of real people. A model that pivoted their business to put Star Pubs and Bars at the forefront of their digital strategy. A model that puts the individual at the heart of communications, reacting to their needs to boost sales.

Enter Project FlyWheel: an ambitious test-and-learn programme that applies the principles of data-driven marketing and embraces an e-commerce mindset to win at the pump.

The project

Mobilising and applying real-time data were central to the success of Project FlyWheel.

Heineken worked with Brulines to get pump access in pubs across the country, installing smart devices to monitor how many pints were being pulled. For the first time, Heineken had visibility of its real time performance, enabling them to take the principles of ecommerce and apply it to selling beer in bricks and mortar pubs.

Having established the data loop, we started to experiment. We drew a 2km radius around each of the 2,500 participating outlets to establish the key battleground for each location. Then, using our audience understanding and real-time sales data, we started testing different messages in paid social and mobile display, each communicating to potential drinkers that a pint of their favourite beer is served in a nearby bar.

The scale, speed, and flexibility of this new communication model allowed us to determine which brands, messages, media choices, and moments drove the biggest uplifts in sales. What’s more, it helped us understand which age groups were more responsive to advertising across both social and display.

Project FlyWheel established a future-facing communication model that’s scalable and sustainable, cementing Heineken’s place at the forefront of beer and cider advertising.

A new approach to communications had been realised, one that used data to react and optimise in real time and which, as we will see, was proven to increase sales across the entire Heineken portfolio. Most importantly this approach was scalable and sustainable, cementing Heineken’s place at the forefront of beer and cider advertising.

The results

We’ve switched from thinking brand first, to thinking in an ecommerce mindset and thinking performance. We’ve taken multiple brands and build one footfall driving campaign. We’ve accelerated their performance measurement approach and can now add pints pulled as a KPI to digital plans.

Over the course of the first 6-week test period, sales of Heineken brands in featured outlets increased by 3.6%, using a £225k investment to deliver £670k of additional value.

During the second phase, with a greater budget, and with the application of valuable learnings, we beat this, delivering a £10+ ROI!

This project was highly commended at The Drum Marketing Awards 2020. To find which Drum Awards are currently open for entries, click here.

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