A new brew for an old brand – Heineken shakes things up

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In the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day, an article on AdAge.com about a popular beer brand caught my eye. Heineken USA is beginning a new marketing initiative to seek new customers and increase their sales. They plan to ‘think outside the bottle’ and pour more money into making Heineken draft available at a greater number of bars and restaurants, instead of appearing almost always in bottles. The new initiative will include print, billboard, and digital ads focusing on Heineken draft to tap into the consumer drive for premium beers.

This drive to increase business got me thinking about brand loyalty – in my opinion, one of the most fascinating aspects of advertising and marketing. Brand loyalty plainly means the consumer’s commitment to repurchase or continually use a brand. Consumers have a multitude of reasons for why they purchase the brands that they do. It can be anything from the price to the mere fact that Mom and Dad used it during their childhood. I know that I am personally extremely brand loyal when it comes to beauty and cleaning products, clothing, and technology. Those categories I feel are quite common for consumer brand loyalty, and I would also add the category of beer to that list.

So while I agree that for Heineken, the push towards draft verses bottled beer is a smart move, I also believe that it is a very difficult one. Consumers remain loyal to the beer of their choice and that is true for this brand. You either like it or you don’t! While statistics show that 60% of consumers try new beers mostly at bars rather than buying them at the store, the statistic does not include how often they will purchase that brand after the initial trial. Sure, it sometimes leads to a continuous purchaser, but I don’t believe that delivering the product in a different form (by going to draft instead of a bottle), is going to make that big of a difference to consumers.

Instead of increasing their consumer base, Heineken will most likely just make current Heineken loyalists a little happier, being able to order a higher quality of their favorite beer. With this change, as with any, they are held back by what makes brand loyalty so fascinating: it is in every brand’s interest to go after new audiences, but they can never go so far as to lose the followers that got them there.

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