Wednesday, September 30, 2009

New Heineken USA Chief; new strategy?

I get a lot of press releases and see a lot of stories about new people in positions at a variety of booze businesses, and most of them... eh, so what? This one was an exception, and not because it's a major company unit -- Heineken USA -- but because of the way the people formerly in the position were willing to say why they left, rather than simply "to pursue other opportunities." Check it out, then go back and re-read my post about imported beer. This is from the Wall Street Journal. (I've cut a bit from the piece; this is just the nuggets.)
Dutch beer giant Heineken NV tapped company insider Dolf van den Brink as the third chief executive in about three years to run its struggling U.S. division. Mr. van Den Brink, currently commercial director and deputy general manager for Heineken's operating company in the Democratic Republic of Congo, will become president and CEO of Heineken USA effective Thursday. He succeeds Don Blaustein, who resigned in August, citing differences with the company's management in Amsterdam about how to run the unit.
Mr. van Den Brink will try to revive U.S. sales of the company's flagship beer, Heineken, which have dropped sharply amid the weak economy, ineffective marketing campaigns and tough competition from rival imports and domestic brews. Mr. van Den Brink faces a tall order. In April, Heineken said its beer volume fell 16% in the Americas on an organic basis, which strips out results from recently acquired brands, in the first three months of 2009. Heineken USA accounts for about 4% of the U.S. beer market in terms of volume.
Mr. Blaustein's predecessor, Andy Thomas, also resigned because he disagreed with Heineken's top executives over strategy.
They tap the deputy from the Congo to run the U.S.? Wow.

I would love to know what the different outlooks on strategy are. Here's a suggestion on a US strategy: figure out what you're selling, then get Heineken ads that are as good as the "World's Most Interesting Man" Dos Equis ads are (which are actually working, by the way: Dos Equis is doing well). I like John Turturro, but good God..."No destination is the destination of the undestinated... This is not a beer. This is a compass."



What the hell is that shit? If you don't even know what your beer is -- here's a hint; it ain't a compass, you buy them at REI -- what are we supposed to get out of it? What's the most interesting man in the world say? "I don't always drink beer, but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis." Notice: he drinks beer, not a compass, and he admits that there are other drinks, and that he doesn't always drink Dos Equis. I think that's the best part of the commercial.

I'd also point out to craft beer fellow travelers that even after losing that volume, Heineken USA, by itself, does the same volume as all craft beers put together. Food for thought, mobsters.

20 comments:

jp said...

I bet Heineken volumes in Africa are nothing to sneeze at. If that guy did a good job there why not send him to the states to sort it out? I really dug their mini keg add campaign I thought it was great. Agree with that compass bit though very odd.

Chuck Cowdery said...

I wonder what the strategy is that keeps forcing their U.S. managers to quit.

jp said...

Lew, Heiniken 2008 revs Africa and Middle east EUR1.76bn, 08 Americas (north and south america) EUR1.566bn Africa was up 22% (not sure if it was like for like) while the Americas were down 10% seems to me if this guy was the star of that region prolly is a good bet to turn it around

Brad said...

I think what Heineken was trying to say is, "this is not a beer. It is electromagnetic radiation existing within the visible spectrum arranged and transmitted in such a fashion as to create the image of a beer bottle in your visual cortex."

You know, René Magritte style.

jp said...

http://adage.com/article?article_id=139333

Russ said...

I actually like that Heineken commercial, but then again I'm approaching it from an entertainment perspective rather than a "do I want to buy this beer?" perspective, and what I find entertaining is precisely the fact that it makes no sense. It would be hilarious in a Coen Brothers movie, but as a commercial I agree it's not terribly effective.

Lew Bryson said...

Mebbe it's cuz he's Dutch? The Ad Age piece you link to (thanks for that) seems to think so. And those numbers make it clear that Africa is a big market for Heineken. Still...as they said, big diff between marketing beer in Africa and in America. We'll see.

About that mini keg thing, there were some snide remarks about that in the biz press today, but I'm with you, I thought it was great -- except for that somewhat disturbing sexbot tapchick ad -- and was glad to see them extend it to Newcastle. What I don't get though is the attempts to sell the Krupps BeerTender, a mini fridge to cool those kegs...for $180. As the guy at my local beer store said, for $180? I'll just buy 8 more mini-kegs instead! I saw these things advertised for as much as $300, now I see them knocked down to $99. Still too much. Come on...

Lew Bryson said...

Agreed, Russ. It's amusing, the look on Turturro's face is hilarious, but...what's it tell me about the beer?

jp said...

well I usually do not go for techno silliness aimed at 20 something metro sexual guys, but that "bot" was actually the reason I liked the campaign. Behind the robot techno jazz she was perhaps the most well put-together woman I've ever seen on TV. Sorry for the sexist tone but it left an impression. They also ran a shorter campaign that I thought was great showing people converting their homes and garages into corner neighborhood bars by using the mini keg. I thought that was an effective campaign as well and a great idea to boot, especially for guys in the burbs. Man you are right on about the mini-keg fridge price.
I walked into a Williams Sonoma once and saw it going for $300 bucks! Rip off city! Great concept though.

Brad said...

> but...what's it tell me about the beer?

In fairness, many mainstream-beer ads have no intention of telling you anything about the beer. Rather, they're trying to sell an image, a feeling, an attitude. In this case, I think they're going for the zen-like-aphorisms-masquerading-as-non-sequitors approach to make us feel ... well, I'm not sure. That Heineken is an invaluable tool for leading a rich, unique and enlightened life? No one's saying the execution is spot-on ...

Lew Bryson said...

True, Brad. I guess what I should have said, and it looks like you're saying the same thing, is...What's it tell me about the brand? Coming right out and saying "This isn't a beer. It's a compass." is just a bit too naked marketing.

Steven said...

"It would be hilarious in a Coen Brothers movie, but as a commercial I agree it's not terribly effective."

Yeah, so much so that when I first saw that ad I could only think -- I don't want to drink what Barton Fink drinks! ;-)

Anonymous said...

Grab a heiny, yo! Wahahahahaha

Stephen Beaumont said...

Good points all 'round, everyone, but while it's been implied, especially by Steven, I don't think anyone has come out and stated the principle and pivotal difference between The Most Interesting Man in the World and John Turturro: one is the cool guy you want to grow up to be and the other is just plain freaky (and more than a little bit scary).

With a different actor and a tongue planted a little more firmly in cheek, I think that Heineken ad just might have worked. But as it stands, it has about as much appeal as Dennis Hopper shilling for PBR.

And to digress just a bit, what is it with these celebs doing ads anyway? Does Turturro not get sufficient millions from his movie work that he has to degrade himself hawking beer? I've never understood the greed that must lurk behind such arrangements.

Brad said...

> it has about as much appeal as Dennis Hopper shilling for PBR

Appropriately enough and related, Dennis also has an opinion on Heineken! :D

Re: doing these commercials, I'm sure that it's a ridiculously light amount of work for rather good pay. Probably hard to turn down. And who knows, maybe they even justify the extra earnings by giving a chunk to charity or something... At least that's what I tell myself I'd do if I were a sought-after, wealthy endorser.

Anonymous said...

Its pretty simple stupid just might be the economy.Last spring spoke about the blank stairs at the gas pumps and the roads not being as busy,you laughed all the way to the next watering hole.These breweries have not seen anything yet,and the wholesalers in this area will be under water for the next five years and they have not a clue what to do about it..How bout those gas prices Pumpkin Head.

andy said...

Looks like Heineken's been watching Mad Men...
www.youtube.com/watch?v=R2bLNkCqpuY

Steven said...

"Does Turturro not get sufficient millions from his movie work that he has to degrade himself hawking beer?"

I had similar thoughts when Brad Pitt was stumping for Heineken. I guess it's the "beer choice of the stars."

Whatever.

Lew Bryson said...

I think it's the New York connection. Heineken is huge in NYC and the surrounding counties, which is where a lot of Da Stars live.

Lew Bryson said...

What gas prices, nibblenuts? Crude stands at $40 a bbl. less than it was a year ago, $80 a barrel less than the high in last June. The roads are still full in this area. Philly wholesalers have driven hard and smart into craft brews -- which are still showing strong growth. From what I can see...you still don't know what you're talking about. Cheers, baby.