Heineken USA CMO to Depart Brewer

Amid Sales Slide, Marketer Seeks Successor to McMahan

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CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- Heineken USA Chief Marketing Officer Christian McMahan will resign at the end of the year, the latest in a series of upheavals at the nation's No. 2 beer importer, whose sales have suffered during the recession.

"It's just time for me to purse something else and I'm kind of ready for a new adventure," said Mr. McMahan, who is staying on until the end of the year. "What's important to me is to ensure a smooth transition" to the next CMO, he said. Spokeswoman Tara Carraro said no successor has been identified as yet.

Christian McMahan
Christian McMahan
Sales of the importer's Heineken family of brands declined 9.4% last year, according to Nielsen data cited by the company. "It's been a struggle in recent years and in no small measure related to the economy," said Benj Steinman, editor of Beer Maketer's Insights. He said the company remains "in search for the next big idea in the Heineken campaign" -- a process that he said preceded Mr. McMahan's arrival in 2008.

The importer's Dos Equis brand has fared much better, fueled in part by the successful "Most Interesting Man in the World" campaign.

Mr. McMahan's departure comes a year after Heineken USA named Dolf van den Brink as its new president, the company's fourth leader in five years. At the same time, the company's largest brand, Heineken Lager, has churned through agencies, last year naming Euro RSCG as its fourth creative advertising agency since 2006.

Under Mr. McMahan's leadership, the company in May launched a new campaign for Heineken Light that seeks to encourage consumers to experience a "stepped up" lifestyle. The "See the Light" tagline urges beer drinkers to "move beyond their old ways of thinking," according to a company statement.

Ms. Carraro said the ads have been "well received by consumers" and that there are "no plans at this point to change any of our creative platforms." She said Heineken sales are improving.

Mr. McMahan told Ad Age in March that the premium brand can "no longer trade on image and status anymore. It has to be more than that."

Mr. McMahan was hired by Heineken USA in July of 2008, when the company was led by former president Don Blaustein. Mr. Blaustein left unexpectedly in August of 2009 in an exit widely seen as related to tensions between the U.S. company and its Dutch parent. His replacement, Mr. van den Brink, is a Dutch national who previously served as commercial director and deputy general manager of Heineken International's subsidiary in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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