Heineken launches first cross-brand zero-alcohol campaign to help ‘explode the category’

Heineken is launching its first alcohol-free campaign across multiple brands as it looks to “explode” the no- and low-alcohol category.

The beer giant is hoping its ‘Say Yes’ campaign, which spans Heineken 0.0, Birra Moretti Zero, and Old Mout Alcohol-free, will raise awareness, change perceptions and kick-start category growth.

Talking exclusively to Marketing Week, Toby Lancaster, category and shopper marketing director at Heineken UK, says: “This area of the [drinks market] is increasing dramatically. We just have to do some simple things around our communication strategy, in-store and on-trade visibility to help really explode the category.”

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Heineken is looking to grow the category in three phases: firstly, overcoming taste and legacy issues; secondly, working with on- and off-trade to stock the range and increase visibility; and thirdly to educate consumers and increase those who trial it.

Lancaster explains: “It’s a really exciting campaign. We are the first to go at scale with 0.0 and advertising like this. There have been a few bit and pieces before but this is a through-the-line, big scale investment that we are putting in the market to really kick-start the brands.”

Through the campaign, Heineken wants to demonstrate the range of alcohol-free options it offers and the role they can play in people’s lives.

It is hoping to promote its alcohol-free range as an enabler of a positive lifestyle, with people enjoying low-alcohol alternatives at events such as mid-week dinner parties, lunchtime beers at work or Sunday afternoon hangouts.

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Lancaster says: “In the past you’ve been out with your friends and you’ve wanted to be part of the round so you might feel obliged to have a few beers, but what we’re trying to do is say it can be cool to have a 0.0.”

The campaign, created by agency Twelve, will begin later this month and will feature out-of-home, in-store and online activity across the UK.

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It will run throughout the year for six weeks at a time to prevent overlap with Heineken’s other marketing campaigns. There are currently no plans for TV but as sales within the low-alcohol category increase Heineken hopes more investment will allow this to happen.

The ‘no and low’ category is growing at a vast rate and is currently worth £42.5m, up 29.2% annually, according to CGA, a research consultancy focused on the drinks market.

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Despite being stocked in almost two-thirds of the on-trade (70,000 outlets) low- and no-alcohol alternatives still makes up just 0.2% of the volume of beer sales.

However, Heineken predicts the category could be worth £250m in three years’ time, which the business is hoping to be a key driver of. Looking at the bigger picture, it says success for the ‘Say Yes’ campaign will be measured by category growth rather than just growing individual brands.

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Lancaster explains: “We are actively looking to grow the category, and our brands within it of course, but our first objective is to grow the category. We see consumer and shopper behaviour changing very quickly. We are looking beyond millennials into Generation X, Y and Z.”

According to research from University College London, a third of 18- to 24-year-olds are now teetotal, while a recent Ipsos Mori survey suggest more than half of people are trying to cut back on alcohol.

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Lancaster concludes: “We are not going to force choice obviously. Today it is still very difficult for shoppers to find [alcohol-free options] in-store and [more needs to be done to help people] understand it’s a refreshing product. When I am stood in a supermarket aisle [the hope is the campaign will] facilitate that choice to say, no I am going to go for zero tonight.”

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