By students, for students.

Archive for February, 2013|Monthly archive page

Heineken: a history in a bottle

In Uncategorized on February 24, 2013 at 6:43 pm


Heineken takes brand seriously. In a industry which is dominated by local brands, it has struggled against structural restrictions, national tastes and trading costs to emerge as a global player.

Among the Dutch brewer’s most recent creative projects was a celebration of its 140th anniversary at the end of 2012, focussing on its distinctive bottle. The Heineken Future Bottle Design Challenge 2013 invited fans of the brand to remix Heineken’s bottle by using images of the brand’s past as inspiration. The result is modern, sleek and designed to look at home in trendy clubs and bars.

Product design has a special place in the evolution of the lager. The bottle has been free to change, while the contents have not. Heineken beer has not touched its recipe since 1873. The key to its distinctive taste continues to be yeast-A.

Heineken is noteworthy among European beers for finding success in America. It was the first beer delivered after the Prohibition. On 11 April 1933, a shipment arrived from the Old World and Americans got to taste their first sip in over a decade! Heineken was destined to become the number one imported beer in US.

This was upset when Corona penetrated the states with a distinctive long neck bottle and presentation – a slice of lime was always placed on top. After 1997, Corona easily overtook Heineken in shipments.

Heineken had to come up with some ideas, but the recipe couldn’t be touched. What could be done?

heineken bottle

A slimmer green Heineken bottle with a longer neck arrived in New York City bars and restaurants, ahead of a national rollout by the Amsterdam brewer. The new Heineken bottle is 1.25 inches taller than the old bottle, with a longer, narrower neck the brewer believes makes it look more modern so it can drive in new young drinkers.

A thumb groove is designed to improve the grip and encourages drinkers to hold the bottle lower down, keeping the beer colder. A strong shoulder aims to convey an air of “masculinity and pride,” according to Heineken.

What remains a permanent feature is the green colour. Heineken stuck with this distinctive shade, over alternatives of clear or brown glass – why? The brewer knew that the appearance of the bottle created a lasting impression. Clear bottles look great, showing off the colour and texture of the beer, but green has historically been associated with high quality beer, turning the colour into a status symbol.

When Heineken reached American shores in 1933, it came in squat green bottles. At this time, design was determined by practical considerations. After World War II there was a shortage of brown glass, so European brewers exported their beers in green bottles. Because many of those beers were extremely high quality and others were just priced to seem that way, the green bottle became shorthand for great beer. In addiction research revealed that in USA women likely preferred the green colour.

Heineken knows that it has to stay true to its past while moving to stay relevant to today’s consumers. Its packaging has come to stand for quality, refreshment and a distinctive European brew. The brand has been proactive in making alterations in its product design, to ensure this message is understood by each generation of drinker.


Tanja Lanza (MSc Marketing and International Management, 2013) is passionate about all aspects of brand development and marketing campaigns. More of her writing can be found at

Aidan Clfford is HBR’s editor and sometime contributor.


Selling Hitler’s favourite car: VW’s American reinvention

In Marketing on February 7, 2013 at 4:54 pm

vw lemon

Tanja Lanza asks, ‘How could Volkswagen sell Hitler’s favorite car to the American people only a decade and a half after World War II?’

Penetrating the American market after the Second World War proved difficult for the VW Beetle. Not only did its small size and unusual design conflict with trends towards bigger and brasher cars in the US, but the company bore the stigma of connections with the Third Reich, having designed military vehicles for the hated regime. Recognising that it stood out among its competitors, Volkswagen decided to embrace its difference in a series of imaginative ads which reinvented their signature car as distinctive, charismatic and desirable.

The driving force behind the Volkswagen campaign was William Bernbach of DDB. Bernbach is considered the father of the “creative revolution” in the advertisement industry – setting a new standard for ironic, conversational and humorous marketing campaigns.

The ad featured a black and white photo of the Volkswagen Beetle with the word “Lemon” in bold san serif font.  Below the image follows a statement that proclaims that this particular car was rejected by Inspector Kurt Kroner because of some problems in details. Then they conclude with this tag line: “We pluck the lemons; you get the plums.”

What does “Lemon” mean?

Lemon in colloquial English is like saying that something is scrap. It gives the reader a first impression that Volkswagen was as critical of their own car as the majority of Americans.

So, this is the brilliant and risky idea: “don’t worry people this car is Lemon, but next will be better”. It’s a promise. The purpose is to draw the attention on the word “Lemon” in order to shock the customer who will keep reading what comes next on the ad. While he’s reading the article below he realizes that this car is not so bad as it seems. And maybe the next will be even more astonishing!

Additionally, the print campaign drew attention to the perfectionism of Volkswagen’s engineers – capitalising on stereotypes of German efficiency which served to distract from recent, darker manifestations of national character.

The Volkswagen ad campaign was unlike any before it, ushering in an era of modern advertising that truly changed how advertising agencies accomplish their trade.


Tanja Lanza (MSc Marketing and International Management, 2013) is passionate about all aspects of brand development and marketing campaigns. More of her writing can be found at