The Heineken Experience

Posted: 28th February 2011

Last week I popped to Amsterdam for a couple of days break which included a live gig by my favourite band The Airborne Toxic Event, who have been touring Europe for the past month.

I've been on a mission of late to introduce to organisations the idea of focussing on experiences in health improvement so when I saw there was an attraction in Amsterdam near our hotel called the Heineken Experience, I had to take a closer look.

I'm not a big beer drinker so I've had limited experience of Heineken in the past. I would have said it was European, but would not have guessed it was a Dutch brand. I would connect it to sport for the high profile events in football and rugby they have sponsored, and I would associate it with the colour green, but that's about as far as my opinion on the drink went.

Heineken Experience

The Heineken Experience costs €15 per person admission but it was well worth it for the brand lessons I learned while I was there which I will share with you:

"" They are consistent worldwide
The experience starts with the history of the company, about the Heineken family. After several high tech and interactive displays you get the overall message that "Heineken is a family brand which is proud of its quality". They really drum home that they have a "secret ingredient" which is made in Holland and shipped worldwide so that the beer tastes the same all over the world.
"" They care
They have a set of stables in the factory where the Heineken Shire horses live. The conditions of the stables are first class. Deliberate I'm sure, but the lasting impression is one of a company that cares. They even describe the e's in the Heineken font as 'smiling' - so they must care!
"" It tastes amazing
We get an opportunity to taste the beer, led by a guy standing in a red star-shaped bar (to reflect the red star in their trademarked logo). He highlights details in the colour, the bubbles and the clarity and fine details in how it's poured that most of us would overlook. This stage of the tour drums it to us that Heineken is THE best tasting beer in the world.
"" It takes time to create the perfect product
The Heineken Experience includes a virtual ride called "Brew You" where you are "brewed" from being original ingredients to the finished bottled product. It's fun, and smart and makes you smile. You have an opportunity to buy a bottle of your own brew at this point for an extra €5 (It's a Heineken bottle with your name on it and I'm a sucker!)
"" They are connected to success - and will make you successful
We walked through corridors of sports shirts from numerous famous sports clubs who have won trophies sponsored by Heineken including UEFA Champions League and European Heineken Cup. This is followed by a fast-paced inspirational multimedia showreel linking the beer to dreams and achievement including music, movies and sport. We get to see Heineken being product placed in action features such as James Bond, The Bourne Series and The Matrix. The subconscious message is that drinking this stuff will make me cool as well as successful.

It's been a world-beating beer for decades
We then each take a seat in an individual pod (see photo below) to watch 15 minutes of the best Heineken TV commercials from the last 40 years. I mean, we've paid to gladly sit and watch a string of Heineken adverts!

Heineken Pods

"" They are the green bottle with the red star!
All the way through the expereince we are drip fed elements of their trademark from their red star, their green colour and their Heineken font. Your senses are literally plunged into their brand the whole time. You get two free beers in a bar at the end of the tour where you can repeat the taste test again for yourself and be reminded how it's the best beer in the world.

Despite the fact I might sound a little cynical at times, I really enjoyed this tour and even though I knew my senses and my subconscious were being taken for a ride I happily went along with it. In a few months time I might be in a bar, in the mood for a beer and even though I know the other beers will be just as good, if I look up and see the green bottles with the red star I suspect I might just choose one of them. Besides, they care, they will help me achieve great success, look cool and it's the best tasting in the world, right?



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