We allocate 10% of our total media spend to responsible drinking campaigns- Oloche

Heineken, a centenarian premium lager beer brand on the stable of Nigerian Breweries Ltd has survived generations of beer consumers. In its decades of existence, the beer brand has continued to endear itself to teeming consumers, increasing in brand equity while recording huge profits for its investors. In this chat, Sampson Oloche, Head – Premium, Sessionable, Portfolio, Nigerian Breweries disclosed that the secret behind the phenomenal growth of the brand Heineken lies in its unique brand-building strategies and innovative ideation. Excerpts

As a centenarian brand with presence in over 192 countries of the world, how has the brand sustained its market relevance in Nigeria?

Basically, Heineken sets itself a very high standard and so it starts right from the product level. We use highest quality ingredients across board and the process is very standardized. It is set up from the centre. So, it is controlled centrally from Amsterdam. The quality standard is really very high. For a brewery plant to qualify to brew Heineken anywhere in the world, it has to go through a very rigorous process. We have eight breweries in Nigeria and Heineken is produced not in everyone. You can hardly have Heineken having any quality complaint anywhere all over the world. That has been the major success factor. It is the first child of the company and it is treated as such.

How will you describe the market response to Heineken’s 33cl sleek and impact on the brand equity?

It is not a regular pack type for beer in Nigeria because if you have noticed, energy drinks are known for sleek cans most times; and then recently soft drinks. As such, it is not what we will call the regular pack type for beer; and so going into it, we were very skeptical. But then, I think what we call a winning design led to something I will call a winning proposition. The response for it has been very positive. It is now contributing a significant portion of the Heineken volume already. Basically speaking, in Nigeria, beer consumers like large volume but the design of the Can and the look of it the consumers have accepted and will want to be seen with it.

A prominent feature on the Heineken’s sleek Can is the UEFA Champions League trophy. Would you describe this as a strategic way to appeal to your sports fans alone or part of the partnership deal?

The trophy was used last year and I think we plan to bring it back again. We have been sponsoring the Champions League for many years and I think it is just to bring that association to the consumers at first hand level. That is why we put the branding on it. So, basically it is a way of driving our association with the platform because, of course, if you know Nigeria very well, football, generally speaking, is one of the biggest passion points for our consumers and the Champions League is the highest level of football that we can have on an annual basis.

With changing consumer behaviour exacerbated by the global pandemic, Is the sleek Can achieving its set goal of creating new associations with football?

Yes, it is exceeding all expectations. If you noticed, the regular Heineken is in a 60cl bottle. It is drunk mostly on premise and so here you have a pack type that people can buy and travel with; take to the beach; have parties without bothering about deposits; and with the increase in food consumption due to COVID and people staying more at home, the pack type just came at the right point in time.

What’s the difference between “Better Together” and “Never Watching Alone” campaigns?

The ‘Better together’ is promoting the association of football, Champions League and Heineken. That was a pre-COVID campaign. That is to say we are better when we are together. The ‘Never Watching Alone’ is related to that because we say you are better together. We are saying even though you are alone, you are watching not alone.

Who were your target audience for “When You Drive Never Drink” campaign?

It is just us being a responsible corporate citizen to encourage people because at the end of the day, we sell a product that can get you drunk if you drink it too much and it exposes you to danger. You might think it is simple and everyone knows this, it is good to remind people. So, that basically is a reminder to all beer drinkers that we love you to drink our beer, it is a fantastic beer but keep it to a limit and when you drink, don’t risk people’s lives by going into a car to drive because driving, if you look at the global survey, is something that is a problem when people drink and they drive. As such, that campaign is targeting everybody that drinks and has the opportunity or option of driving.

Read also: A look at the energy crisis (Part 2)

As a company that advocates for responsible drinking, how much of Heineken’s media spend goes into promoting responsible drinking across all operating companies?

We have a global mandate and I don’t think it is a secret that it is 10% of our media. So one out of every 10 Naira spent in media has to go into this campaign. There is no regulatory or government regulation on this. This is just us, being a corporate citizen, to say we take 10% spend of our media on promoting this, then we are doing a good job educating people and reminding them that they should stay safe.

Heineken has been a long-standing official sponsor of the UEFA Champions League for over 27 years. How has this partnership enhanced your brand equity?

I think the length of sponsorship already tells you everything. If you are married to someone for twenty-seven years, no matter what happens after that, that person is part of your life. So, it is a partnership like a marriage. Twenty-seven years are a very long time and that time already indicates that we are both happy. UEFA Champions League is a very relevant platform for the Heineken brand and it is really doing well in Nigeria.

It is inarguable that your marketing strategy has been deliberate and focuses on making Heineken the most contemporary beer brand in its category. Could you shed more light on Heineken’s product placement with James Bond movies?

I think James Bond is also an association we have been making before. If you look at James Bond, the whole franchise, the hero, the very international man of the world which ties with our formal positioning as ‘Be the man of the world’ which is what we used to say. It is also another partnership that works.

If you look at the kind of things Heineken does, they are things we want you to see only behind Heineken. So, we look for things that are not regular and not easy to get. They are also not cheap; but they are things that will deliver for you because no other brand can copy it. You can’t copy a James Bond franchise. We all grew up watching James Bond. So, from young to old, everybody associates with the platform. Everybody sees in themselves a hero even though they don’t act it; but it is somewhere hidden in you and that association is just fantastic.

Heineken as a brand with strong ties with sporting events became one of the first global brands to invest in the Lagos Fashion and Design Week. Could you elaborate on what informed this transition and the success so far?

The Fashion and Design Week is a way of broadening the reach of the Heineken brand because, if you look at a lot of our sponsorships, like Formula One, Euro, Bonds, movies are a lot more masculine than feminine.

Again, fashion in Nigeria is a platform that attracts a broad audience but it indexes a lot in females and also very young people. If you add that to the football audience, you will see how we are trying to reach a broader set of consumers, first-hand through their passion- points; because, all we do is ignite consumer passion, and anything that ignites their passions is something we are interested in. We are meeting the consumers at their passion points, the same way we are meeting a huge part of our consumers with football.

What more should Heineken loyalists expect as the brand continues in its quest to influence and define the global fashion landscape?

For fashion, we are just the sponsors of the platform and we have increased from one to two platforms, because, on the one hand, we have the platform that is very established, that gives established designers access to the runway to do all of these things, and on the other hand, we have another platform that gives aspiring designers platform to showcase themselves. It is almost like a talent hunt for fashion talents. That is also another thing. But going forward, for us, it is just to keep the partnership going, because then, the platform just exists for people to know that if I work hard, then I can be on this platform and if I am on this platform, I can be known, and if I am known, I will become successful in that industry. If you go through that journey, you have to acknowledge that a brand that gives you that opportunity deserves some kind of kudos. That is where we keep it at this point.

Heineken recently bagged the prestigious Marketing Edge Premium Lager Beer Brand of the Decade award, how would you describe this award?

What gave us this award which we really appreciate is a combination of many things over the years and it is a testament to the fact that we are doing the right things and we will keep it like that.

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