Do you want a beer? What about virtual? Heineken has become one of the newest brands to join the fast-growing collection of well-known brands with a footprint in the metaverse with the launch ‘Heineken Silver’ – the first in the world Virtual beer.
Heineken unveiled its new drink in mid-March in its Virtual Brewery on the Decentraland metaverse platform, which replaced hops with pixels. Those who attended the virtual presentation could be forgiven for being a bit thirsty in the real world – but they didn’t have to wait long for Heineken to launch the ‘first’ in the real ‘metaverse bar in the world’.
With an attitude towards the metaverse that is as refreshing as their latest beer, Heineken has taken an ironic and confident approach to launching the metaverse, resulting in nearly two billion impressions. This was then reinforced by an unforgettable real-world experience. We raised the bar stool and talked to Rob van Griensven, Heineken’s global digital director, about how to take full advantage of metaverses and provide a seamless digital and physical experience for their audience. Sit back, relax and treat yourself to a (virtual) beer when you find out how they did it!
The world’s first “virtual beer”
As an early adopter of the metaverse, it was an unexpected step for Heineken. At face value, it doesn’t make sense for the Beverage brand to launch a virtual bar. Pixels, at least as far as we know, you can’t drink. In fact, nothing can be bought in the Heineken Silver Area in Decentraland. However, Heineken Silver – with less bitter and more refreshing taste – is aimed at Generation Z, with this target audience increasingly spending time together in worlds of metaverses such as Decentraland, Roblox and Sandbox.
“If we knew beer was more for the Generation Z palette, our marketing strategy took advantage of the metaverse. In our research, as well as from conversations with co-workers and people working with Heineken partners, we found that this generation is venturing into metaverses as a place where they can have fun and socialize more online. Before the physical product was available, they were able to experience Heineken Silver in a more impressive way than ever before. ” – Rob van Griensven, Global Digital Director, Heineken
Authentic, relevant, characteristic: Holy Trinity
Heineken also felt that many brands that had previously jumped to metaverses did so as a symbol of progressiveness, not necessarily in line with their brand.
“Every good brand should connect the Holy Trinity between credibility, relevance and distinction. And I think in the early stages of Metaverse, many brands focused on being different from the competition, but they weren’t always very credible or relevant in that space. They simply wanted to describe themselves as advanced thinking, instead of adding something special to their customers’ experience. ”
Choose a metaverse, any metaverse
The first step was for Heineken to choose the right platform and use it in a way that allowed them to stay true to their brand. First and foremost, as a beer provider, they were extremely aware of working with an age-appropriate community, and they needed a platform that could enforce age restrictions. They wanted to take the metaverse marketing trend in a cautious way.
“As a brand of alcohol, we must always be careful not to cooperate with consumers with whom we should not communicate or cooperate. For example, a world of metaverse like Roblox has been completely ruled out because you have kids on the platform. This was not the right place to live. There are also some other metaverse worlds like Sandbox that have a slightly more childlike visual identity, and we wanted to be on a visually mature platform to reflect what our audience would expect from a virtual bar. . ”
The final choice for Heineken was hosting their virtual lineup on the Decentraland 3D Virtual Platform. Decentraland sets age limits for certain content and offers a more mature platform that has been in development since 2015 and has already hosted brands such as Samsung and Adidas. With careful planning, Heineken was able to choose the perfect platform to meet its target audience in a virtual environment. They also had to build a Virtual Bar themselves. Desiring not to be just another brand that doesn’t add anything credible or relevant to its customers, Heineken sought the expertise of agencies and publicists who could steer them to the right platform and help them build it.
“Within our trusted partners, we have creative agencies such as Publicis, Isobar (Dentsu) and Boomerang, which are actively involved in metaverses and Web3 initiatives. In addition to our own qualitative research, they helped us understand the right tone of voice to do something cool. Simply adding a few brand labels to the metaverse world would not be enough to activate our brand; we had to create an environment that would contribute to our customers’ experience. ”
A unique metaverse marketing strategy
So Heineken had to think carefully about his strategy. They created a fantastic environment where their audience could meet. Along with DJ, dance and of course virtual beer, it captured the metaverse and reflected Heineken’s long-established ethos of progressiveness and innovation; but almost every other brand in the metaverse could argue similarly. That doesn’t mean anything special. Thus, Heineken accepts a playful part of its brand.
“For Heineken, it was all about not taking ourselves too seriously. Metaverse is a trend that has a more serious side. Therefore, Heineken accepted the ironic side. Humor and sarcasm play an important role, especially in the metaversion. Our plan from the very beginning was a confident joke to say we were launching a virtual beer, but it’s impossible to drink a virtual beer.
“This has allowed us to move our goals in the direction of providing a unique experience for our customers and creating a conversation about it. As an early beginner in the metaverse, it would be difficult to assess which success indicators you should take advantage of, especially since platforms like Decentraland do not in themselves have much centralized data or information about visitors or users. Instead, we decided to focus the main goal of launching the Heineken Silver metaverse on bringing people together.
Laughing at himself and using this new approach allowed Heineken to also take advantage of significant media and PR influence, which was another key KPI of this campaign, which garnered nearly two billion impressions through media relations, social media and influencers. As a physical repetition of this campaign followed, it was crucial that Heineken could use its metaverse to create as much media and influential interest as much as possible. The key to this was to accept local collaborators and influencers.
“Many of our individual markets have been able to activate things in the Decentraland area, which we created locally. For example, our colleagues in Spain collaborated with a well-known local musician who recorded a video in which she captured her dancing in our area.
A combination of physical and digital customer experience
Heineken’s plan was never to preserve Heineken Silver as a virtual beer. Behind the launch of the metaverse was a plan to deliver a a physical campaign that blended seamlessly with the virtual. They sought to create a physical experience that was as reminiscent of a virtual launch as possible.
“We worked with an artist, J Demsky, known for its graffiti to connect with our target audience. He worked on the visual style and helped us develop certain parts of our silver area in Decentraland. He then helped us create The FRT (For Real Tokens), which was our playful view of NFT but for the physical world – another example of our approach to provoking ‘counterfeiting’ to embrace authentic moments. We also included digital fashion pieces. It was like a digital museum that brought metaverse aesthetics into the physical world. We developed the campaign in several phases from initial stimulation to physical launch so that the virtual beer could move into real life.
“Every local market has done a little differently. In London, the initial entry into a physical event was like being in a metaverse bar and people were able to play with VR headphones. In Milan, a physical can of beer would appear on the phone by displaying a certain QR code, and this would be your token for entering the party. We worked with content creators who worked with us at an earlier stage of the campaign. We invited them to the events together with important people from our customer base. ”
This has created a seamless virtual and physical media experience for Heineken Silver consumers. By providing a self-aware approach in both contexts, Heineken continued to look playful and could achieve genuine, an important experience for their audience. Crucially, they continued to create a personalized experience for different locations across Europe, replicating the personalized experience they had in the metaverse. It allowed them to engage with their audience in the metaverse in a genuine way that reflected their brand values and in the process created a unique experience for that audience.
“We reconnected with consumers who have already dealt with us in the virtual world. We also use the same content creators we used in the metaverse. Bringing the visual identity we created in the metaverse into the event was crucial to visibility, awareness, and transformation. If they see what they came across on the metaverse or hear about it on social media at the time of purchase, this is a logical step to help the consumer on his way to purchase.
What’s next for Heineken’s metaverse marketing strategy?
This was the first step in the metaverse for Heineken. Because we don’t take the platform too seriously, the campaign was an extremely useful stress test for a world that many executives at an organization like Heineken are unfamiliar with.
“We’ve seen the benefit if you don’t take yourself too seriously. This is a lesson for senior stakeholders in large corporations like Heineken to relax a bit and transfer trust to people who have less experience in the company. brand world, but more experienced in the metaverse. “
After successfully providing a genuine customer experience in both the meta-space and the physical world, Heineken Silver’s task now is to repeat this for future campaigns.
“As already mentioned, we had to assess whether our first step into the metaverse was credible, relevant and distinctive. As a brand that goes on, we will have to repeat this exercise every time. We have learned this by creating a playful interaction between the virtual and the physical, which will certainly be a key element going forward. Here, we made fun of ourselves to start a virtual beer launch and then move it to the real world; why not do the opposite in the future and bring something from the physical world, such as a big music event, to the metaverse in a unique way? ”
Heineken will continue to coordinate its digital strategy and metaverse strategy with the personality of its brand and will never be taken too seriously. It is essential that they also strive to combine the digital elements of their campaign with the physical ones to continue to create genuine opportunities for their customers to share a beer, be it in a real glass or a digital bottle.
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