How Heineken USA finds new ways to reach consumers about responsible drinking

A top comms pro with one of the world’s largest brewers shares guidance on the company’s approach toward public safety, mindful consumption and principled messaging.

Communicating effectively includes constant evaluation of how to reach your target audience through the right channel, with the right message and at the right time.

Making connections with consumers can be even more of a challenge when the focus is on serious topics related to safety and behavior, rather than the latest product innovation. We’ve seen both the opportunities and the challenges of these types of efforts in our work to promote the safe and responsible consumption of alcohol—a fundamental part of our company’s philosophy. A product launch often has a very specific set of target demographics and outreach goals, whereas our long-standing commitment to safety requires a more varied approach.

This is especially true when we consider the broad audience we are trying to reach with these messages. Our global organization recently pledged to bring responsible consumption messages to 1 billion consumers every year. We also commit 10% of the media spend on our flagship brand, Heineken®, in every market where we operate toward responsible consumption campaigns each year.

As consumer preferences and habits change, we’ve evolved with them to deliver messages of responsible consumption in the moments and places of highest impact. Today, adults of legal drinking age may engage with content in dozens of different ways every day: tv and radio, social media, in-app messaging, and everything in between. We’re constantly looking for new ways to engage—especially while they are on the go.

Get creative with messaging channels.

We recognized that for many consumers, the journey to responsible decision-making begins when they first get in their vehicles, as they plan where they’re going to and how they’ll get back. We wanted to reach these drivers at the start of this process, but to do that we had to first find the right partner—one who shared our commitment to safety and responsibility. That’s where Waze – the popular navigation tool – came in. This would be a first-of-its-kind program for the U.S.

The Waze app fed notifications to drivers while they were idling or parked, discouraging drunk driving with the message, “When you drive, never drink.” These notifications were designed to incentivize responsible behavior by offering drivers a rideshare credit, which could be redeemed at their convenience.

Ridesharing has proven to be a vital tool in reducing traffic-related deaths, according to research from the University of California, Berkeley. The study found that Uber has lowered traffic fatalities around 4% overall and reduced approximately 6% of alcohol-related traffic fatalities.

Continue to test and learn post-launch.

Digital channels give us the opportunity to quickly test, learn, and adjust communications efforts.

In our dynamic media environment, this can be a crucial factor in creating impact. After launching the Waze program in California this May, we continued to fine tune before expanding to New York and Florida.

Image via Heineken USA

We increased the frequency of app takeovers and activated push notifications to nudge users to redeem rideshare credit. We also adjusted the creative design of our advertisements to optimize further, doubling overall engagement. The-real time feedback we received from Waze helped us improve the program in a matter of hours, rather than weeks or months.

Provide consistency across a mix of access points.

No matter how successful an individual program might be, the most effective communications campaigns reach the audience in a variety of places. To create this effect, our aim is to leave no stone unturned, using both personalized experiences like the Waze partnership, as well as high-visibility touchpoints. From high-profile TV commercials to in-app technologies and interviews on alcohol-free lifestyle options and more, our team continues to focus on the same core message, “When you Drive, Never Drink.” We also continue. to build on the reach and success of Heineken® 0.0, the brand’s alcohol-free beverage.

Changing consumer behavior is no easy task for marketers and communicators.  In our efforts to meet consumers where they are, awe believe we’re only scratching the surface of how new channels can help us achieve this goal. Our initial summer pilot with Waze saw almost 1 million consumers reached, and  our partners at Waze told us we pioneered the way brands can utilize the Waze platform here in the US. As we continue to work towards reducing drunk driving in the U.S., this gives us great hope for where we can go in the future as we looking at how to build on this program in 2022 and beyond.

Josephine (Fien) Bertrams is SVP and chief corporate affairs officer at HEINEKEN USA.

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