Heineken eyes 5 per cent market share; brewing a success story?

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A globally renowned and preferred beer brand for many discerning beer drinkers around the world, Heineken, ever since its India launch September last year, has been pursuing aggressive marketing activation campaigns to replicate its global success here.

The Dutch- born beer, positioned as a super-premium lager beer was brought to India by United Breweries, owner of the popular Kingfisher brand of beer. Brewed and bottled in India, this premium beer, priced in Delhi at Rs 80 for 330 ml and Rs 150 for 650 ml is looking to cement its position among the high-end, sophisticated beer lovers by differentiating itself on account of its taste and quality. According to the brand, there is not much competition in the space they operate in India, but the business is coming in from other imported and foreign brands and from consumers who wish to upgrade to premium beer.

Experiential marketing
However, more than anything else, it is the brand’s consistent and differentiated marketing campaigns in India, based on its global proposition, “ Open Your World” that have been garnering attention.  The brand’s Open Your World’ global campaign essentially looks at encouraging aspirational behaviour among adult consumers.

Across the world, Heineken connects with consumers through marketing activation campaigns based on its global sport, music, and film platforms. According to Samar Singh Sheikhawat, Senior Vice President (Marketing), United Breweries, the same global marketing properties are being applied in India with specific Indianised content and relevance.

Samar Singh Sheikhawat, Senior VP Marketing, UBL

Samar Singh Sheikhawat, Senior VP Marketing, UBL

The company has chosen music as the main driving force behind its marketing activations in India. In line with this positioning, the latest ongoing marketing initiative is the Heineken Green Room. To be held across Delhi, Mumbai, and Bangalore, Heineken Green Room is a series of exclusive, invite-only events, which will showcase international dance and music artists. Known for its association with music events around the world, the brand is looking to gain awareness and penetrate into the Indian alcohol market on the same premise. Another musical event called Heineken Tonight is in the pipeline, though the company refuses to divulge any further details.

Heineken is also the sponsor of many sporting events like the UEFA Champions League Football and the Rugby World Cup. The brand also boasts of a 15-year-long partnership with the James Bond film franchise, and has plans of launching a global campaign in September for the upcoming spy movie Skyfall.

On the related marketing plans for India, Sheikhawat adds, “We will supplement our musical events with digital, James Bond activations along with increasing visibility and focus on top cities and retail promotions.”

Earlier this year, in February, Heineken launched a Facebook application called ‘The Serenade’, which enables users to send personalised songs to potential partners and invite them on a date and also hosted a 8-hour YouTube event called ‘Serenade Live’ on the same premise.

Through the ‘looking’ glass
The aggressive marketing initiatives pursued by Heineken, and for that matter several other beer brands gives a sense of the underlying growth potential in the Indian beer industry. According to a report titled ‘Indian Alcoholic Beverages Market Outlook to 2015’ by AM Mindpower Solutions, a market research company, beer is the third largest market and the second fastest growing market in the Indian alcoholic beverages industry, next only to wine.

Beer consumption is characterised by extremely strong taste preferences and as a result consumers have fixed brand loyalties. While marketing can help brands to drive awareness and trial, there is also a significant correlation between the brand equity and its look and packaging. Packaging and labelling helps to trigger impulse buying and push sales. Most beer brands experiment with the look of their bottles with the same motive.

To enhance visibility and differentiation in terms of product packaging, Heineken also launched a new bar accessory last month called the Heineken Arctic Glass, a double walled glass that chills beer quickly. These Glasses are a limited edition product and have been available on promotional stocks at select outlets in select cities across the country.

Sheikhawat agrees with the high degree of correlation between packaging and brand equity and feels that in the final analysis, consumers buy what is outside the bottle, driven by preferences based on the brand image. And goes on to say, that according to them, Heineken has the best packaging and look and feel of any beer brand in the country.

While the company has not shared any numbers to substantiate this claim, and considering it’s only been a few months since the brand came to India, there is still some time before one can gauge the brand’s success in India.

According to Sheikhawat, among the different regions that Heineken has a presence in, Delhi and Calcutta are its best markets. He attributes this performance to the right consumer profile in Delhi and Calcutta’s openness towards new beer brands.

The brand also benefits from the large distribution network of United Breweries and plans to focus on the top 10-12 markets in India at present. It is eyeing a market share of 5 per cent of the premium mild beer market in India.

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