Heineken – Social Media Marketing

I recently attended a talk on social media marketing by another fellow student at Aston University and it was truly effective in emphasising the importance of social media. It is changing the way companies create value for their customer and extract their reward in the marketing process. The potential future of social media marketing, likewise, has not gone unnoticed by even the largest of companies. Giant dutch, lager beer manufacture ‘Heineken’ has caught on this trend: the company has taken a proactive approach to the changes in the technological environment by allowing customers to purchase Heineken-branded merchandise. This includes clothing, glasses and any other products that are suggested by their consumers. I believe there are three key benefits of using social media to Heineken.

Firstly, Heineken can differentiate its offerings. Heineken’s new social media marketing strategy appears to be ticking all the right boxes and avoiding many of the ‘traps’ or common mistakes that other companies make when attempting to utilise social media. Most significantly, Heineken are not using this as simply a way of capturing more value from customers – namely, increase their sales revenue. Instead, Heineken have identified that social media marketing is all about empowering customers to be able to communicate with the company. Obviously, the ability of customers to suggest products to the firm and then the firm being willing to consider the demands of their customers is mutually beneficial. Furthermore, this will allow Heineken to effectively implement a concentrated marketing strategy because they are able to design individual offerings to their target market.

In addition to this, Heineken have clearly undertaken invaluable market research in order to utilise their brand equity. This is the benefit the firm gains from the customer knowing their brand, which in-turn influences their buying-decisions. Hence, Heineken have ascertained that those customers likely to purchase merchandise are those sociable consumers, who are more likely to be using social networking sites. Moreover, Heineken have avoided another common error of social media marketing: assuming that Facebook is the only tool available. One of the points made at the presentation I went to was that Facebook is not social media – it is only one part of it. This explains why Heineken have also created a Youtube channel, a Twitter account and have updated their website. Such a universal approach to brand positioning means that it is easier to promote their differentiated offerings over their competitors’.

Lastly, the company can capture financial value from their customers in addition to the intangible benefits of brand equity. Offering products to customers through social media has been dubbed as ‘Social Shopping’, where by customers shop with others and therefore influence others to make similar purchasing decisions. This can be seen as a new, digital-form of word-of-mouth communication. Hence – albeit the objective of a successful social media strategy is never to increase sales revenue – it would not be a surprise if sales of Heineken do increase; particularly given the fact that their Facebook page has almost one million fans. This is a core principle of the marketing concept: success lies through delivering superior value to customers than competitors can.

Ultimately, sooner or later all companies will need to adopt social media strategy into their marketing plans. However, as it eventually becomes the norm for a firm to have a degree of social network involvement, it is important that companies do not become ‘just another’ Facebook page; innovation is needed. This opposed to a conservative culture among some firms, who feel the only reason for using social media is because their competition are. Hence, it is the proactive and creative companies such as Heineken who use social media in new ways before the competition does that will gain a competitive advantage.

© Joshua Blatchford author of Manifested Marketing 14/12/2010

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  1. Joshua,

    Great essay, I like your summary. I’d like to correct one major point: Social Media Marketing strategy always comes back to dollars. It’s just a question of whether brands measure their return on marketing investment or not.

    At Syncapse we created the Syncapse Platform to measure a range of strategic KPIs. The most often quoted of which is the Earned Media Value – the dollar value of free advertising that was created by a Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or WordPress campaign.

    When we created the Tango Headmasher with Britivic they surveyed the audience afterwards to find out what return they received on their marketing campaign. It turned out that ordinarily 25% of people would buy a can of the famous drink after an advert but that in our case this number was higher at 37%.

    A Marketing Director’s primary goals when measuring the success of Social Media Marketing campaigns is to show customer engagement and increased revenue.

  2. Thanks for the very insightful comment Geoff.
    I have taken a look at Syncapse’s website and what you do seems to be very interesting – it’s great to have feedback from you.


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