The traditionally prestigious import was finding itself labeled as just another passe beer as consumers increasingly tested microbrews.
"Heineken was finding itself pretty quickly becoming your father's Oldsmobile," says Steve Davis, 44, VP-marketing for Heineken USA. "We needed to make ourselves cool and with it."
Mr. Davis decided the way to get hip was to come out with new advertising that would tout Heineken's name value but spin it for beer-drinking twentysomethings.
The result was an estimated $20 million campaign by Wells Rich Greene BDDP, New York, that broke in March 1996. The TV spots featured the distinctive Heineken red star and were accompanied by true-life conversations. The print ads used the star in a variety of humorous situations.
"Other beers talk to the consumer from the neck down," Mr. Davis says. "We wanted to take it to a different place and thought, `Let's own the art of conversation."
According to Impact, sales of Heineken grew 7.2% to 36.7 million cases in 1996. Mr. Davis is confident Heineken's quirky ads and iconic red star will propel further growth.
"We want to be a 100 million case business by 2002," Mr. Davis says.