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Press Release:

Why Heineken USA Is Charging Ahead With a Red Bull-ish Can Design

June 18, 2007

By Mike Beirne

CHICAGO — Heineken USA is aiming for some buzz by tweaking its packaging again, this time with a “Slim Can” design for its Heineken Premium Light that resembles Red Bull’s can.

The 12-oz. HPL can, created by VBAT Brand Design, Amsterdam, is a key ingredient in the Dutch brewer’s mission to sell 270,000 more barrels of the low-calorie brew this year. HPL sold more than 570,000 barrels in 2006, the year it was introduced.

TV breaking this week, via Berlin Cameron United, New York, takes HPL out of the nightclub and into places where the bottle couldn’t go, such as the beach and poolside. Creative features interaction between the HPL bottle and the Slim Can to the hip-hop song, “Can I Have It Like That,” sung by Pharrell Williams and Gwen Stefani. Tag: “Irresistible.”

On-premise celebrations will kick off on June 21, the first day of summer (and the longest day of the year). An on-premise campaign, themed “Mission Irresistible,” will feature samplers dressed as secret agents—complete with trench coats, hats and sunglasses.

The initiative will be broader than last year’s in-bar effort whereby reps dressed as airline pilots and flight attendants to engage consumers in Heineken’s largest sampling campaign to date. The brewer said such scale is necessary to overcome the “Heineken Hurdle”—a perception among light beer drinkers who previously have tasted Heineken that HPL would be too robust for them.

“That is why driving trial is critical,” said Andy Glaser, director-Heineken brand, Heineken USA, White Plains, N.Y. “We can do that in newer occasions and newer venues, places like festivals. We have much bigger opportunities to target consumers now that we have a can package.”

Support also includes print, outdoor and Internet via Yahoo!, Maxim and other content sites that draw the 21-to-34 male target. The Premium Light rollout is being treated as a three-to-five year project. Heineken will budget $70 million to advertise HPL in 2007. Heineken spent $49 million in media on HPL last year, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus.

Also on tap for the beermaker will be a late summer ad push for the Heineken mini-keg, which has been in stores since January. This fall, the HPL 5-liter keg will be unveiled. In 2006, the company sold 5.4 million units worldwide of the home keg systems that pour draught beer.

Heineken is dressing up the mini-keg with a test in Rhode Island of the BeerTender, a countertop appliance from German-based Krups. The chrome dispenser, which looks like a cappuccino maker with a tap handle, chills the patented 5-liter keg. Unlike other mini-kegs that sport gravity spigots from the bottom, this injects carbonation for a draught-style beer pour.

Heineken has learned from consumer testers that the BeerTender is creating more usage occasions for the mini-keg. By itself the keg, which keeps beer fresh for 30 days, usually is consumed in its entirety during a single event. But BeerTender users are enjoying pints of draught beer a couple of times a week.

“It definitely has an experiential marketing aspect to it,” said Ken Kunze, CMO at Heineken USA. “Just the quality of the pour and the beer itself coming out of it is something that brings people back. We’re the only one that has it. I’m not saying someone won’t be able to duplicate it in time, but right now we have what we think is a little bit of a gem.”

HPL exploited a white space in the beer category when it launched nationally in March 2006. Light beer is a North American phenomenon that accounts for about half of beer consumed in the $9 billion category. However, imported low-calorie brews account for less than 4% of sales. The luxury light became the badge brand in the niche that lacked one and has since grown into a top 10 import. It also cast a halo on Heineken Lager, which shipped 5.1 million barrels last year, a 7.3% gain, per Beer Marketer’s Insights, West Nyack, N.Y.