Heineken Shows Its Love Equally for Both Lager and Light Brands

Umbrella Tagline From Wieden Aims to Keep Import Drinkers From Turning to Cheaper Brews

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CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- Heineken Premium Light's last ad theme was "Share the Good." Its new one might better be described as "share the tagline."

The first three spots of Heineken's new effort star actor John Turturro.
The first three spots of Heineken's new effort star actor John Turturro.
In a first for the brewer, Heineken is spreading one theme across both Heineken Lager and sibling Heineken Premium Light, two brands that the importer has taken enormous pain to keep distinct until now. The new push -- a much anticipated first U.S. campaign from Wieden & Kennedy -- urges consumers of both brands to "give yourself a good name."

Struggling with sales
The campaign hits as the Heineken Lager brand is struggling with sales declines amid the economic downturn, and new chief Marketing Officer Christian McMahan, hired away from Diageo last summer, said that it was crucial for the No. 2 import brand to reconnect with consumers. "In tougher times, you need to remind consumers of your specialness," he said.

The first three TV ads feature actor John Turturro waxing philosophical in chic, urban settings such as New York's Village Vanguard jazz club. "This is a compass, and you, son, are the navigator," Mr. Turturro, staring at one of Heineken's iconic green bottles, says at the outset of one spot, dubbed "The Expedition Leader." "Every man is the leader of his own expedition. ... No destination is the destination of the un-destinated. But he who wanders with purpose has no purpose to wander. This is not a beer, this is a compass. So navigate wisely and don't get lost."

The fortune-cookie-esque prose seems to be an appeal to import drinkers not to wander off from Heineken as they are confronted with more and more options to choose from. Import sales are slumping thanks mostly to declines among mega-imports Heineken and Corona, but smaller, newer brands such as Dos Equis and Stella Artois have generally posted gains.

Too mainstream?
Several beer industry trade publications and analysts have surmised that the explosive growth of Heineken and Corona over the past two decades may have made them too mainstream for their own good. Mr. McMahan didn't dispute that thesis, calling it a "brand life cycle" and a "good problem to have." He added: "It's a challenge as you grow ... to maintain that specialness."

The first three spots of the new effort will star Mr. Turturro before the campaign shifts from the "inspirational, rocket-booster" phase to one that focuses on the wisdom of everyday drinkers, Mr. McMahan said. The tagline "Give yourself a good name" will be used both as a plea to taking the high road (in other words, drinking Heineken rather than one of those lowbrow domestic light beers) and also for responsible drinking.

In addition to numerous broadcast, digital and sponsorship components, Mr. McMahan also shared some clever on-premise and retail executions, including one Heineken-logo-emblazoned pin for security that reads: "Don't make the doorman be a bouncer. Give yourself a good name."

Quick growth
Heineken Light has grown quickly since its 2006 launch, but doubts persist whether the results have measured up to the massive advertising outlay driving it. A stand-alone campaign for the brand from Wieden under the "Share the good" tagline was both launched and killed last year.

Mr. McMahan said the umbrella campaign won't prevent the two brands from remaining distinct, because the Heineken Premium Light executions will be set differently than those pushing the lager. Still, he noted, "It does say Heineken on both bottles."

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