I am Dutch guy who lived in Belgium for about 14 years and moved to the United States in 2006. Having lived my teenage live in the land of beer, I have had many experiences with the best beer in the world. Belgium has over 800 different beers and many of them rank the top list of best beers in the world. The Netherlands also has their fair share of locally brewed beers and many of them are exported all around the world, you might have heard of a beer called “Heineken”.
A little background about my homes away from home before I get to my point in this blog. Belgium has close to 11 million people and is about the size of the State of Maryland. The country is divided into the Flemish (a Dutch dialect) and Wallonian part where they speak French. They have almost the highest taxes in the world and their government structure is probably also the most complex. The Netherlands are their Northern neighbors who have close to 17 million people and is less than twice the size of New Jersey. Many big brands come from the Netherlands such as Shell, Aegon, and Philips.
Ok, back to beer… When I moved to the United States back in the winter of 2006, I had no idea how much impact these locally brewed beverages are about to or already had taken over the entire world. Specialty beers or imported beers have gain a lot more popularity in the recent years in the United States. We have seen a huge increase in local breweries and the beer aisle in your local super market doesn’t just offer Miller light and Bud light any more… Btw did you know that Budweiser is owned by a Belgian company called Inbev, crazy right?…
So as the imported beers gained more popularity and people really tasted a difference in these European crafted beers I started noticing more of my homeland brewed beers. Of course I was excited to be able to proudly say that is created in my little country! People really liked the taste and felt kinda special because they were drinking an imported beer from a foreign country they had never heard of before.
The funny thing and the point I am writing this blog is that your average beer in Belgium and the Netherlands like “Stella Artois” and “Heineken” is promoted as a fancy beer, where overseas this is just your regular standard beer like Budweiser or Miller and definitely not the cream of the crop.
Marketing is all about creating a story in the consumers mind. The brand or the perception of the brand is owned by the consumer and the consumer ultimately controls it, but companies through story telling are able to plant a first impression and create an experience when they consume the product. Many imported beers have attempted to brand these average beers into a “fancy beer”. Something unique, something sophisticated, something you will pay premium dollars for to have.
Heineken has been able to brand their product internationally as something trendy, something the elite drink, and something that makes you unique and special, where in Europe it’s probably just an average beer. Here is a funny tidbit, the wholesale director of Heineken in the Netherlands is also called Jeroen Corver, which I think is really cool.
These brands have redesigned their image and brand perception in these new markets and have created a high demand by telling a story around the product. It’s not always the quality of the product, but who has the best story to tell to create an experience and can tie this into creating demand for the product. This truly shows the importance of marketing research before entering the market and the value of branding. Many times you only get one shot to create that first impression, and these two brands have done an excellent job to change your average beer to an elite beverage.