Once as preppy as pink and green madras, the lager has come down to earth-and is being rewarded with record sales. Last year, the nation's No. 2 imported beer continued its double-digit rise, up 14% to 3.98 million barrels, as the beer behemoth making fun of it, Budweiser, continued to slide-down 2.5% to 34.8 million barrels, according to the newsletter Beer Marketer's Insights.
While still not the common man's brew, Heineken is closer than ever to BBQ, Chevys and everyday occasions thanks to tie-ins with Austin Powers flicks, a younger demographic, and initiatives to concentrate on off-premise locales and national retail accounts.
Sales are doing so well that this year A-B, the world's largest brewer and purveyor of Budweiser, evolved the popular "Whassup?!" ads to spoof the Dutch import-with uncool, Heineken-drinking white guys asking each other, "What are YOU doing?"
"You think they'd have something better to do than focus on a little 2-share [product] like us," says Ken Kunze, the brand's 41-year-old marketing director at Heineken USA. "For them to pay that much attention to us is a huge compliment." Last year, Heineken media spending soared 40% to $47.9 million, according to Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR. Interpublic Group of Cos.' Lowe Lintas & Partners Worldwide, New York, handles. Heineken also subtly freshened graphics and packaging, and launched a keg-shape can.