Some brand categories focus on marketing more than others. And beer is one area that’s particularly reliant on communication. Many of the advertising industry’s most darling brands are beers, Sol’s parent company Heineken being a potent example. Beer brands need to carefully consider the feeling they want people to associate them with and Sol’s new brand positioning, ‘Taste the Sun’ takes this right back to its fundamentals, demonstrating how every moment can be revitalised by the power of sunlight.
The global repositioning campaign, created by JWT Amsterdam, includes a hero film that highlights the fun of the sun. It’s backed up by a neat series of cool social posts that ‘hack’ social media to grab people’s attention.
LBB’s Alex Reeves asked Alessandro Manunta, international brands portfolio manager at Heineken, to explain this shift for Sol and what thinking went into it.
LBB> What is the main thrust of this repositioning and what motivated it from a brand marketing perspective?
Alessandro> For Sol, the sun is going to play a central role and that’s the twist in our marketing strategy. There’s always been a strong connection between Sol and the sun, but we never really put it at the centre - that’s why our new tagline is ‘Taste the Sun’. But we realised that the opportunity is to there to put it at the centre of our positioning. That was the big change for us.
Before, the sun was there but we were focusing on other elements that are still part of it but that we want to dial down - the elements of independence, of freedom. The job we had was about connecting to our roots. We’re a brand that was born in 1899 in Mexico. The legend says that the original master brewers saw a ray of sunlight hitting the beer and called the beer El Sol, which then became Sol a few years later.
The repositioning is also driven by an opportunity that we see in the market: we really want to play at the core of what we call the ‘sunshine segment’, which is a segment within beers. They tend to offer easy-drinking lager with a lower ABV, usually come from a sunny place or have exotic provenance and tend to be sold in a transparent bottle. This segment is quite big - 58 million hectolitres worldwide - and we know it’s growing rapidly. In the last three years it’s been growing in double digits at plus 11%, so we know there is a big opportunity there.
LBB> So that’s where the beer sits within the broader category. How does it sit next to other Heineken brands?
Alessandro> We play within the group of other international brands like Amstel, Desperados, Tiger, Birra Moretti and some others. There are probably three elements that define Sol most as part of this new marketing strategy.
The first is the sunshine element. The second one is the energy. I don’t think we’re ever going to be high-energy, in terms of a party beer, but we definitely want to be social, we want vitality. The way we define vitality as ‘the contagious energy to enjoy a colourful life, with the belief that the sun will always appear over the horizon’.
The third element we call ‘realness’. We’re not picture perfect, we embrace what’s real and see beauty in imperfection.
LBB> What did you want to continue from the old positioning and how did you want to take it forward?
Alessandro> Before this positioning, Sol’s identity was more anchored around independence and freedom, with the elements that were connected to the historical side, to the revolution in Mexico. There were elements of Mexico in there that we absolutely wanted to keep, but the opportunity was to reconnect to its true origin, which was being named Sol in 1899 and the ray of sun hitting the keg of beer.
The interesting thing is that despite us being called Sol, believe it or not, there are a lot of people that don’t associate us with the sun. That’s what our research is saying. And that’s why we’re being very direct - ‘Taste the Sun’. At the same time we wanted to play both at a functional and an emotional level. Taste the Sun is that good feeling of positive energy when you’re out and about in the sun. We also wanted to invite consumers to try the beer as a refreshing product - that’s the functional level.
LBB> Can you talk a little bit about your dialogue with JWT Amsterdam and how that conversation progressed?
Alessandro> JWT Amsterdam was on board from the beginning. They worked with us on the repositioning of the brand right through to the creation of the campaign. The key moments were when we realised that what consumers see as a sunny, optimistic brand, this is where we really need to focus. As much as it sounds simple, that was a key moment when we realised we really need to go back to our origin in a very simple way.
The other moment was how we tell consumers this message in a simple but relevant way. That was when we started focusing on social media and mobile-first strategy. We were talking a lot about how people use social media and how we can connect the way they use it with an unexpected way to tell our core message. That’s how we came to the idea of the ‘hacks’, which really bring that to life in a relevant way.
LBB> Let’s talk a bit about the ‘hacks’ themselves. What were the challenges you faced there and how did you overcome them?
Alessandro> Firstly, it’s a crowded environment. It’s also quite easy to fall into creating comms that become wallpaper. So we wanted to create something that was part of the actions that people do every day. That’s why we started with how people use social media, sometimes without even thinking. We can be part of that process in a way that’s integrated, but it needed to be a little bit surprising or unexpected. That was where we started to integrate our core message with ways to utilise social media in a way that we were creating ideas that consumers would find a bit surprising and at the same time would understand. We worked on keeping the message really simple and straightforward. That’s how we came to the brightness hack, for instance, where you see someone swiping up and lighting up the room, or you have someone jumping from one window to another on Facebook.
LBB> How have you found people have responded to the campaign?
Alessandro> It’s just started going live in some markets, so it’s still early. I can share the feedback we received from many markets where we shared the ideas. Sometimes ideas travel and sometimes they don’t, despite having a global team. The hacks are something that everyone is picking up and using across their media channels. It’s very simple. It’s different, not something that’s been seen yet in the market. And at the same time it conveys the message in a consistent way. That’s really appreciated.
LBB> Looking ahead for the brand, what are the biggest challenges and goals?
Alessandro> We’re starting to own our territory - the sun. This is something we were not doing in the past. We need to continue building in this space. That’s element number one. The second is that we need to continue to find ways to speak through the most relevant channels to where our consumers are and we need to find disruptive or surprising ways to convey the message. We know it’s very relevant - everyone enjoys the sun whether you’re in a sunny country or one where it’s not always there. We know that the message is really strong. The third element is that it’s easy to fall in communication to be a little bit serious. It’s important to maintain that optimistic tone of voice. What we’re seeing in research is more and more consumers are looking for brands that talk to them in a positive tone of voice. Those are the key elements that we need to continue going forward. And if we maintain this consistency we’ll definitely get a much stronger place in the sunshine segment.
There are lots of markets launching this campaign in 2018 and 2019 from Colombia to Chile to Germany to Australia. 2019 will see Brazil, South Africa, the UK. We’re seeing lots of traction. At the same time it’s very rich and fertile territory. We expect lots of markets to come with some local activations as well, some ATL or even events, bringing to life the fact that Sol connects you to the positive energy of the sun.
LBB> In the northern hemisphere, the sun is going away. What was the thinking on the timing?
Alessandro> From a timing perspective, in South America we are approaching summer and we have big markets over there. There is an opportunity there. But nevertheless, we’ve found from our research that markets where the sun is not out everyday - the UK could be an example - it’s actually an extremely relevant message to talk about the sun. People look for the sun. So it’s symmetrically right talking about the sun during winter. It was thought up to ensure we met the South American summer, but it’s going to be very relevant for the winter and we expect markets to continue using the campaign throughout the summer.