Heineken's Kheri Holland Tillman Talks Multicultural Targeting

Exec Also Muses on the Duty to Help Those Behind Her

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Heineken's Kheri Holland Tillman
Heineken's Kheri Holland Tillman
In honor of Black History Month, Ad Age caught up with a number of marketing and advertising executives for a Q&A. The fourth in the series is Kheri Holland Tillman, VP-trade marketing and sales strategy, Heineken USA.

AA: How did you get into the business?

Ms. Tillman: I've been at Heineken for four-and-a-half years. I started in the marketing field two years out of college. I was at Dow Jones, at The Wall Street Journal, and worked on the interactive edition of The Wall Street Journal before it launched. And then I went back to business school and got my MBA from Kellogg. I got my M.B.A in business management and marketing and then … I started working at Kraft Foods.

AA: Where are you from?

Ms. Tillman: I was born in Amsterdam, which is always a funny thing because I was born in Amsterdam, my maiden name is Holland and I grew up in White Plains, [New York]. And here I am at Heineken, which is a Dutch company whose headquarters in the U.S. is in White Plains. I walked into my interview saying I was destined to work here. They thought I was crazy -- and then realized I wasn't kidding.

AA: Do you have a mentor?

Ms. Tillman: One person who stands out is Ann Fudge, who after being at Kraft … went on to be the president at Y&R. And she's someone who has been a mentor to me over the past years.

AA: She is an African-America woman, like you. Was that one reason you looked up to her?

Ms. Tillman: Absolutely, to be able to see an African-American female, especially, excel in business and excel in advertising was something that you don't see that often. ... You don't see it enough.

AA: Is marketing segmentation necessary and does Heineken specifically target African-American beer drinkers?

Ms. Tillman: Yes, marketing segmentation is necessary, but it's not as simple as segmentation by African American, Hispanic and white. It needs to go much deeper. ... It needs to be the psychographics along with the demographics combined because not all individuals act the same across an ethnic group. You can't really successfully lump one group together necessarily, then correctly hit that target specifically. So you have to make sure that you're breaking it down by more than just an ethnic group.

We need to make sure we understand African-Americans play an important role within the Heineken organization and that we are doing the right things to hit that target . Sometimes that doesn't necessarily mean doing something different than you may do to general market.

AA: Do you have any examples of putting that into practice?

Ms. Tillman: Our most recent television campaign. ... We did find that the television was relevant across ethnic groups. ... Then there are other things we tend to do more targeted, like local marketing. We had Heineken Red Star Soul a few years ago, which was really leveraging Heineken's focus against the music platform but doing it in a way that was relevant specifically for the African-American community.

AA: Do you do more targeted marketing to Hispanics compared with African-Americans?

Ms. Tillman: I'm not sure if it's more, [but] the one thing we have to take into consideration is there is a language piece that comes in when targeting our Hispanic consumers. There is a level of complexity in understanding where English language is the right mode of communication or using Spanish language to reach Hispanics is the right mode. And then also there are nuances within that same Spanish language. You have the dialect from different places . . . so that adds a layer of complexity.

AA: Have you taken people under your wing?

Ms. Tillman: Absolutely. There's a responsibility that I feel to ensure that I leverage the experience that I have and where I've been able to get to help others in ways that I can. I'm also a mom of three with a full-time job so I'm doing a whole lot. ... But it is important. Right now I'm actually down in Orlando at Black Enterprise. They have a Women of Power Summit that they do every year and I'm here to speak, so speaking is one of the things I can absolutely do that can reach out. ... [But] it's not always about color. I think its also about being in business [and] being female. And it's about just having seniority and being able to see there is someone you can help to ensure they are learning and growing the way they can.

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