How Heineken is prioritising ‘good times’ on its 150th anniversary

Heineken is celebrating its 150th anniversary with a tongue-in-cheek campaign that pokes fun at the many ways its beer has been nicknamed, misspelled or misserved over the years

Chelsea Ritschel
New York
Tuesday 13 June 2023 16:34 BST

Heineken celebrates its 150th anniversary

Heineken is celebrating its 150th anniversary by becoming the first beer brand to track its success, alongside its annual performance, by the measurement of “good times”.

In 1864, Gerard Adriaan Heineken, the son of a merchant family in Amsterdam, purchased the brewery De Hooiberg (The Haystack), marking the first step in what would eventually lead to the creation of the Heineken brand. By 1873, Gerard had purchased another brewery in the heart of Amsterdam, which he’d given his family name.

As the Heineken brand continued to grow and achieve success, the business was taken over by Gerard’s grandson, Alfred Henry “Freddy” Heineken, a Dutch businessman who served as chairman of the board of directors and CEO from 1971 until 1989.

During this time, Freddy defined what the beer brand meant when he famously said: “I don’t sell beer, I sell gezelligheid,” the Dutch word for “fun” or the feeling of good times.

In honour of the brand’s 150th birthday, Heineken is reprioritising good times by partnering with experts and academics to understand what exactly is needed to create these important moments for its millions of customers in more than 190 countries. As part of the brand’s research, it has worked with behavioural scientist Dr Chris Brauer, Goldsmiths, University of London, to create the “Good Times Index,” a model of measurement capable of scoring Heineken’s contribution to creating the perfect conditions for a “good time”.

The research is timely, as the results found that 87 per cent of people believe it is more important now than ever to have a good time.

As for what is needed to have a good time, the Good Times Index identified five core conditions that lead to these memorable moments.

According to the study, a sense of purpose, or feeling as if we are working towards a shared goal, is one of the most important components in the creation of a good time. These moments wouldn’t exist without other people, however, as the brand found that creating these elevated moments is only possible when opportunities to connect with others are available.

Safe and inclusive environments, in which we can form meaningful connections, are also an integral part, with the consumer research conducted by Heineken finding that 82 per cent of respondents care more about being with friends than if their night goes to plan, and that 75 per cent of respondents believing that the people you watch a sports game with is more important than whether your team wins.

Additionally, feelings of open-mindedness are also key to good times, with the research finding that respondents are eager to connect with people from different backgrounds or with different experiences from their own. According to the Good Times Index, 78 per cent of respondents agree it is important to socialise with people that don’t always share the same views as them, a sentiment most strongly held in Brazil (84 per cent) and the UK (81 per cent).

Finally, good times are about balance and moderation, with respondents revealing how important it is to prioritise time that allows them to enjoy themselves and feel mentally refreshed. However, that doesn’t mean that each detail needs to be planned, as 88 per cent of respondents said the best memories come from unexpected moments.

To celebrate all the ways Heineken customers enjoy good times in honour of its 150th birthday, the brand has launched a tongue-in-cheek campaign that highlights some of the unique twists consumers have put on its iconic beer - from misspellings of Heineken, including on a bar sign, to the various and oftentimes unconventional ways the Dutch pale lager beer is enjoyed, such as through a straw or alongside a slice of lime.

On Twitter, the official green-backed logo for Heineken has been replaced with one that reads: “Ainechen,” while the brand’s bio reads: “Hekkenen, Ainekan, Heineken, Whateverken. Whatever you choose to pronounce us. Here’s to 150 years of good times!”

The brand has also poked fun at the various misspellings on Instagram, where it’s logo has been changed to read: “Hekkenen.” The alternative spellings will also appear on electric lorries as proof that the Heineken doesn’t mind how its customers spell its name, as long as they enjoy themselves.

As for the future of the brand, Heineken has committed to tracking “delivering good times” as part of the way it measures its annual performance, alongside sales and other brand tracking metrics.

“Brewing good times has been in our DNA for 150 years. That is why we are evolving our brand metrics to show that creating good times is equally as important as the beer we produce,” Bram Westenbrink, global head of Heineken, said. “By better understanding the conditions behind good times in today’s world, we can continue to create experiences for all our global customers that promote that feeling of gezelligheid - whether that is through the messages in our advertising, our sponsorships and events or of course our range of products. It is our goal that we will continue to deliver good times, one way or another, for the next 150 years and beyond.”

Dr Chris Brauer, director of innovation at Goldsmiths, University of London, added that the creation of the Good Times Index has been about reflecting on the idea of good times through a “new and fresher perspective,” which has also meant better understanding the “multiple dimensions that make up that feeling”.

“Good times are not just one thing or another, they are a multitude of different and subjective feelings, experiences, wants and needs that help generate a sensation and fulfil higher order needs,” he explained. “There has never been a more important time or opportunity to measure the role and prevalence of good times in our lives.”

Ultimately, Heineken wants its customers to know that it doesn’t matter how or where they are enjoying the beer, or whether or not they’ve managed to spell the brand correctly, as long as they are having a good time.

“Spelling it correctly won’t create good times, but the world’s most international beer brand knows what can,” Heineken said.

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