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Bullish on beer


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Having just rolled out domestically brewed Heineken beer in partnership with the leading brand, Samar Singh Sheikhawat, Senior VP-Marketing, United Breweries Limited, now focuses on making it a market leader in the super-premium category.


How has been the response to the pilot launch of Heineken beer in Mumbai and Pune? What are your expectations from the actual rollout of the product?

Heineken Lager beer bottled at our brewery near Mumbai, rolled out into the markets of Mumbai and Pune on August 5, which was also International Beer Day! A month later, we rolled out the product in Bangalore and Delhi as well. The initial response to the product and packaging has been very encouraging, and we are confident of meeting our business objectives on the brand. Our next launch markets are Kolkata, Goa, Haryana and UP.


What is your brand strategy in terms of positioning Heineken as a super-premium beer in a market that already has other superpremium brands?

Heineken, the world over, dominates the International Premium Segment, and that is where we have positioned the brand in India. With Heineken as an integral part of our portfolio, United Breweries has the portfolio power to increase its dominance of the Indian market.


What is your marketing strategy ‘Open your World’ about? What are the key insights behind your marketing activities?

Marketing activation will be in line with the global brand positioning ‘open your world’. This thought unifies Heineken around the world and reinforces the worldly positioning of the Heineken brand. ‘Open your world’ is an invitation to our target audience to be openminded, confident and always moving forward seeking new experiences. This mirrors the brand’s personality and the direction of young men around the world.


Heineken is a globally known brand and has been around for over a century and a half. The brand is not entirely new to Indian consumers, as it has been available in India for a while as an import; and Indians who travel internationally quite a lot have surely enjoyed the brand in one of the 170 countries around the world that Heineken is available. This does give us a base awareness from which to work our way up.


Now that Heineken is brewed in India, it will be more widely available and accessible, allowing it to be enjoyed by more consumers throughout India. It is today the World’s No.1 International Premium Beer, and our focus will be towards delivering the ‘Heineken experience’ to our consumers in India. This will start with the perfect beer experience and envelope other experiential touch-points covering sport, music and film, which are the key activation pillars of Heineken worldwide.


As Heineken has major marketing activation campaigns across sports, music and film platforms to build the brand worldwide, what will be your initiatives in India?

Across the world, Heineken connects with consumers through marketing activation campaigns based on its global sport, music and film platforms. In sports, we associate with UEFA Champions League Football and the Rugby World Cup. Heineken also partners some of the world’s most premium & high profile music festivals, such as Coachella and Ultra in the USA, Rock in Rio in Brazil, Oxegen in Ireland and the Open’er Festival in Poland. The brand has also been James Bond’s preferred beer for some time now. In India, Heineken will initially focus on activating the brand at premium pubs, bars, lounges, restaurants and retail outlets to drive awareness and trial, and will leverage the brand’s global proposition, “Open Your World” across all marketing executions. Digital activation and social media in particular, will be used extensively to ignite conversations and connect with its consumers.


In India, we will leverage digital and social media to engage with our audience and always be part of the conversation. Our prime engagement tool with the Heineken consumer is our Facebook page. It is one global page which has over three million fans, of which around 60,000 are from India. We will use this platform to build conversations around various properties Heineken is associated with such as UEFA Champions League Football and the Rugby World Cup. We will soon look at developing a mobile platform to engage with the consumer and associate with music in a big way.


Your stated objective is to develop the brand for the millennial consumer (21 to 30 year-old). What are the strategies for this?

As the world’s leading premium beer brand, Heineken will appeal to the sophisticated, discerning and increasingly brand conscious consumer in India.


How are you trying to localise your communication for the Indian consumer? What do you have to say about the ban on alcohol advertising on TV and print media in India?

The ban on alcohol advertising on TV and print media has definitely restricted the marketing capabilities of the company to quite an extent. But having said that, the digital space works as a medium to reach out to today’s discerning customer.


You plan to leverage the strength of the United Breweries Group’s distribution network to take Heineken to the consumer. Won’t this affect the UB group’s original Kingfisher brand?

In line with its leadership position in the International Premium Segment (IPS) globally, Heineken is positioned similarly in the super premium segment in India. Heineken will add strength to the UB portfolio and make it complete With Heineken, UB has a complete portfolio catering to all segments of the market. Each brand in our portfolio has its own positioning, be it out flagship brands Kingfisher Premium and Kingfisher Strong, or Kingfisher Ultra, Blue or Red.


In a global sense, how important is social media and word-of-mouth in the liquor business these days?

Given that we are reaching out to a specific TG, and also that there are restrictions to mass media direct advertising of beer, the main focus of our sales and marketing efforts will be at the points of sale and consumption. In addition, digital activation will play a key role, and as we move to the next phase, we will look at activating a brand property to engage with our consumers. Digital activation and social media in particular is being used extensively to ignite conversations and connect with consumers.


Feedback: rahul.dubey@exchange4media.com

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