Of all the cities I’ve visited, Amsterdam is probably my favourite. Sitting on the windowsill of one of the hundreds of crooked buildings looking out at the endless stream of boats and bicycles is mesmerizing. The people of Amsterdam are extremely diverse, which reminds me a lot of my own home of Toronto, Canada. I have never felt so welcome in my life, and I completely understand why so many international residents have chosen Amsterdam as the city to make their own. The red-light district and cannabis coffee shops can be found in the city centre but are mostly unavoidable if you choose not to partake. I also want to say that the coffee shops are found throughout the city whereas the red-light district is contained within a small area of the city centre and almost completely vanishes by day. You can be sure that I… sampled… as many of Amsterdam’s beers as I could while I was there as well. The city has a rich history of brewing, thanks in part to the success of Heineken, which began brewing in 1864 and by 1889 was receiving praise at the World’s Fair in Paris. The beer is available on tap almost everywhere in the city and Heineken branded signage can be seen almost anywhere you look. Over time Heineken has grown to a company now called Heineken International, which consists of over 250 beer brands from around the world.
One of the most well known aspects of Heineken marketing is the “smiling e” found in their logo. The e’s in the logo changed in 1964 in an attempt to make the brand appear more positive and fun. Alfred Henry Heineken, the one who made the logo change, was apparently also trying to target women, because they were usually the ones buying groceries for the family at the time, and so Alfred decided to make the logo itself appear to be smiling to the buyer. The change was hugely successful and is recognized around the world; even Google adopted a similar typeface for their logo that is still present today.
Heineken still operates the site of the old Heineken brewery in central Amsterdam that is now the location of The Heineken Experience, which offers extensive interactive tours through the old facility. Here, Heineken reps showcase the wholesome ingredients, antiquated brewing techniques and, most importantly, give out samples. The final part of the tour is more of an interactive museum that features sport sponsorship and general advertising history. There are multiple hubs where you are encouraged to take pictures or videos and share them using the Heineken Experience hashtag.
As stated above Heineken has been partnering with sporting teams and events throughout its history. Today it is a major sponsor of the UEFA Champions League and as of September 2016, a sponsor of Formula 1. The popularity of watching live sports via scheduled TV is dwindling as people use online streaming services to watch only the content they want to see, and Heineken’s traditional commercial advertisements aren’t reaching the same amount of customers. This has led to a variety of creative ads by Heineken to draw attention to both the beer and event.
Søren Hagh is the global marketing director for Heineken International and he is bringing Heineken into the 21st century by adopting more and more digital advertising techniques. Currently, around 25% of Heineken’s advertising budget goes towards digital marketing, but Hagh believes this number will balloon to over 50% in a few years. Hagh also stresses that because consumers can so easily dictate what types of ads they do and do not see, advertisers now need to consistently surprise consumers to keep their interest.
If you have read my previous post, The Popularization of Craft Beer in Ontario, then you understand that craft beer is growing in popularity. One of the reasons for this that I discussed is that people can more easily connect and relate with small breweries compared to large multinational breweries like Heineken. Heineken is leveraging social media in an attempt to appear like a small, relatable brewery. Again, Hagh is addressing this issue by focusing on producing meaningful content for the consumer. This differs from many other big companies in that Heineken is not trying to simply make an Instagram post featuring a bottle of their beer, and instead are trying to create content with a story, or something that the consumers can relate to.
I would highly recommend Amsterdam to anyone as a place to visit. The variety and special something the city offers will impress anyone either for a day or a month. The city is extremely well connected with the rest of Europe either by rail or by air, making it a great start and end point for a European trip as well. I also recommend the beer, be it Heineken, Amstel or any of the numerous beers available in the city.
What was your favourite part about Amsterdam, or what are you looking forward to seeing most? Let me know in the comments!