With the launch Heineken’s ‘Worlds Apart’ advertising, this blog examines the campaign in relation to other brands who have undertaken similar cause related programmes, in order to judge its success.
The Heineken campaign has been acclaimed in some quarters for addressing some potentially provocative issues very sensitively. Heineken have bravely approached this campaign in the correct tone, treating the subject matter respectfully and realistically without being preachy, however we would question how many incremental bottles of beer they will sell as a result. We are not judging the subject matter or how they have approached it, however we question whether a brand such as Heineken should be trying to occupy this space, whether this will in fact lead to greater brand affinity (ultimately leading to increased sales) and whether this is unique to Heineken.
Essentially the campaign message is that getting to know someone over a bottle of Heineken will ensure that we’ll no longer be blinded by our innate prejudices. Whilst its difficult to argue with the sentiment, if you were to substitute the beer with Stella Artois or Guinness would be outcome be any different? No is the answer, so this is a totally unownable territory. This leads to broader question on social responsibility and how, as a communications territory, this can be used for the good of a brand.
We would argue that it is far more credible to address such serious issues if the brand has a background or heritage within a particular cause which will allow it to plausibly take a position of authority. For example, since 2006 Pampers has partnered with Unicef to deliver over 300 million tetanus vaccinations. Pampers has consistently activated around this cause for many years delivering some outstanding results within a highly commoditised category.
Another example of a successful cause related partnership is Innocent Smoothies and Age UK, a partnership which started 10 years ago aiming to raise awareness and funds to help keep older people warm and well in winter. Since the launch of this relationship, The Big Knit campaign has helped to raise awareness of the issues in addition to millions of pounds in charitable donation and also engaged staff, both internally and within their retailers, to help support this cause.
Whilst very different causes, the fundamentals are rooted in the same place; making a positive contribution to the world around us. However, the biggest difference of these two campaigns compared to Heineken’s is longevity of support for a cause and the credibility of supporting an organisation which can genuinely address the problems raised in the campaign. Additionally, the Innocent and Pampers campaigns have shown that in shifting from the traditional Corporate to a Brand Social Responsibility position, these brands haven’t shied away from the commercial advantages of undertaking such a campaign. In both instances, increased sales leads to greater levels of investment for the given cause which is something that should be celebrated on all sides. This is something that Heineken have missed and as a result the campaign feels utopian rather than willing to get their hands dirty.
So, we have no doubt that Heineken’s intentions were rooted in the right place, however we believe that if the brand genuinely wants to make a difference it should be more focused on individual issues. Whilst its admirable trying to resolve intolerance and prejudice, this is an ambitious proposition to say the least. By taking a more active role within a single issue and partnering with relevant organisations would allow them to gain far greater traction and build a long term social responsibility programme rather than one unownable campaign.