Wrapping up day five of the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity 2015 were Soren Hagh, executive director global marketing, Heineken International and Gianluca Di Tondo, senior brand director, global Heineken brand. The duo spoke about the importance of creativity to the company that won the Creative Marketer of the Year title.
Hagh said, "We have a deep belief the great creativity starts with a decision. Unless you demand creativity, and demand greatness, you don't get them. The Heineken family (yes, it's still a family-owned business) has made it clear; it's about delivering great creativity. Beer was always sold in round bottles. This is in Green bottles. So, decisions like this have always been made. We believe in great beer. There are many different ways of making beer, but we believe that good beer is at the heart of what we do. Our beer takes longer to brew and has more expensive ingredients. But, we need to do these things to work."
Hagh added a third reason as to why the company has creativity at the core of what it does. "We (as consumers) are bombarded by a lot of messages. Consumers are in charge. We need our consumers to pay attention to us. Creativity is a silver bullet that drives straight into the heart of consumers."
Hagh described why it's important for brands to understand the consumer. "Great marketing starts with a brilliant understanding of a consumer. A brilliant idea is at the core of campaigns. Storytelling is a way of connecting many many dots. It is nice to tell stories, but we want to make sure that they travel to local supermarkets."
Ad for Strongbow Apple Cider (a product under Heineken globally).
He explained, "This is a beautifully crafted ad. It is brilliantly creative also. This ad was a disaster. It leaves the consumer confused about what we are trying to sell. So, yes we make mistakes at Heineken. That's the cost of creativity. Once in a while you're going to get it wrong."
Creativity Program at Heineken
"A few years ago we asked a question. Could we improve our chances of success? We talk a lot about creativity and thought we were well-versed with it. But, we didn't speak a common language. We weren't very efficient because of that. So, we set out to learn a universal language and launched a creative ladder to assess our creativity," said Hagh.
The creative ladder had numbers 1 to 10, with one being work 'disliked' and 10 being 'stuff that will last with you beyond your death'. He explained, "What we realised is that actually the lower rungs on that table were not as dangerous as being number four. Number four on the list was cliche. That's and ad that repeats what competition says.
"There's nothing wrong with the ad. It even has the pretty lady right at the end. You don't think it is wrong till you ask the consumer to remember the name of the brand. The consumer won't."
Next up was an ad for Amstel - Spain which was rated five on the ladder.
"This ad is doing exactly what we need. However, we believe that the future (of advertising) belongs to the 7+ advertising. These ads generate talks. People feel encourage to share. This is one ad that got it right..."
He explained, "That's the type of creativity we should all aim for. We are aware that creativity doesn't happen only internally. It happens through agency partners. So, we're engaging our partners in a Global Commerce Unit. That's how we embed it."
Hagh warned of complacency and labelled it the one thing that keeps him awake at night. "When you're doing alright, everyone says how good you are. That's dangerous. We are concerned about arrogance and leaning back. One of the things we're doing is having creative councils. Great creativity happens when you discuss things. This format is an attempt to use partners and internal people to debate and rank work on the ladder. It's good to be the best in our industry, but we have to compete against other industries too."
Before handing over to Gianluca Di Tondo, Hagh laid down principles the company works on: Squint greatness; Embrace the power of ambiguity; Be reasonably unreasonable; Fail early, and learn quickly.
Di Tondo offered a perspective of brand Heineken. "It was 1864 when a young Dutch entrepreneur brewed his own beer. He wanted to brew the best possible beer with consistent taste. He got it nine years later and gave it his own family name in 1873. He was very clear about the target audience. Back then beer was for the lower socio-economic class. He wanted to change it to atleast the middle-class. He wanted to expand it to beyond the Netherlands. His third generation fulfilled his dream. There's always something nice happening around Heineken and that's why we all go to work. Now, it's up to us to create bonds with consumers. So, creativity is important. 141 years and four generations later, the brand is successful. It's still a family run brand and is available in 192 countries," he said.
Di Tondo added that being present in 192 countries turned out to a weakness for a brief period of time. "Beer is a local business. So different countries had different names, with different designs. This wasn't an issue till the '90s. So, in 2009 we embarked ourselves for a global positioning -- 'Open your world'. With this, we could have lost the local consumer. So, we then had a global platform through our 'city' campaign. Sixty different cities were used in this campaign."
South Korea campaign
The brand remained relevant on digital with 'The candidate', he reasoned.
The speaker then delved into the importance of design. "Outside of communications, design is most important. Design is a powerful tool to push our creative boundaries."
The last speaker of the day ended with a note on the 'Drink in Moderation' campaign: "We want to recruit two new creative talent to make moderation cool."