In an article written for magazine Fast Company, van den Brink said innovation was accelerating across all beer categories in the US, and that Heineken sees the US as the ‘Silicon Valley of Beer’.
But he warns that overexposure to brands has turned consumers into skeptics who use technology and social media in particular to decide what’s important to them.
Dealing with this involves building meaningful relationships with customers, he adds, with brands focused on understanding who their consumers are and what they desire.
Seeking out trust, honesty, transparency
Van den Brink said Heineken interviewed almost 9,000 consumers to understand the basis for their alcoholic beverage buying decisions, and turned up two market-wide megatrends.
There are those consumers who are quieter and yearn to ‘live thoughtfully’, he said, who want to tune out of a hyperactive world in company with products from Whole Foods, Starbucks and Kettle Chips, and “seek out brands that emphasize trust, honesty and transparency”.
On the other hand, the ‘live legendary’ set want to, in Van den Brink’s mind – you can read his article for Fast Company in full here – dance at Coachella until dawn, ski down a remote back bowl in Colorado with a GoPro slapped on their helmets, before (after other high octane challenges) reaching for a Dos Equis.
“For the live legendary consumer, it’s not about what you buy but rather what you do,” Heineken’s US CEO says.
‘It’s not about what you buy, but what you do’
How does this help brands align their offer with consumer needs? Well, Van den Brink says the ‘live legendary’ consumer is the perfect fit with Heineken’s US portfolio.
This ethos is based on the words of Freddy Heineken, he adds, a member of the brewer’s founding family and one-time CEO who said: “We believe that life is more rewarding if you go beyond who and what you are.”
Acknowledging that the space has been colonized by energy drinks and spirits, the exec says Heineken’s adverts “celebrate what makes the everyman legendary”, referring to a competition whereby people can win a $25,000 Stay Thirsty grant from Dos Equis to go on a ‘global adventure’.
Such consumers like events, celebrations and nightlife and drink cocktails, vodka and import beers, he says. Meanwhile, the thoughtful crowd prefers craft beers, specific wine vintages, aged whiskey, etc.