I've Lost the Plot

futurelab default header

Heineken’s “The Entrance” is a 90-second movie about a youngish James Bond-type who strolls through a fancy party doing the exactly right, funny, or utterly cool things, replete with consistent panache and high production values. Check it out on YouTube (you have to sign-in due to the content, which makes no sense since I don’t remember anything morally objectionable in it).

After you watch it, will you please tell me what the hell it’s for?

Actually, I can guess, simply by imagining the twisted agency logic that might have caused this train wreck:

  • The Heineken brand is connected to its Dutch home, and consumed in global markets as a higher-end import
  • Its target demographic are youngish professionals, aged 21 to 35, and probably guys
  • They’re all about being citizens of the world, or cosmopolitan empowerment (or something equally incomprehensible)
  • Therefore, the brand must detach from its nationalist links and positioning as an ‘import’ into any market; rather, it must be perceived as ‘at home’ in all markets

The way to start or further this transformation is to be part of a “conversation” about the brand…and what better way to do that but to create an entertaining video and share it via social media?

ROI? Over 2 million views later, and various blogs celebrating its brilliance or dissing its inanity are proof of success. Conversation accomplished.

Like I said, will you please tell me what the hell it’s for?

My guess is that if you take the vague promises of conversation, long-term brand equity, and the assorted why not? arguments off the table, you’re left with this punchline: it has no purpose other than to exist. There is no plot. It’s form without function.

Here are just a few thoughts on the missed opportunity:

  • What’s uniquely Heineken? This movie could be for a toothpaste, insurance company, or political party; it’s very possible that the agency had a creative idea and went client shopping to get it produced. In fact, it’s derivative of Dos Equis’ “Most Interesting Man in the World” campaign, only not as self-aware and without even a hint of substance (the Dos Equis lothario speaks amazing truth in one ad when he says, “I don’t always drink beer, but when I do…” This movie spends 90 seconds telling us absolutely nothing about Heineken that is uniquely its own (or ownable by it).
  • What’s worth talking about? Branding intended to prompt conversations about branding isn’t much of a strategy, and providing a somewhat entertaining video and calling its views or forwards “conversation” does rude treatment to the word. You could just as easily call this spot a really, really pointlessly bad 90-second commercial. Imagine if there were something creative (or, better yet, substantive) that both warranted 90 seconds of consumers’ time, but informed or otherwise challenged them with something worth sharing/feeding back upon?
  • What’s the next step? OK, I loved the movie and, if asked, I might repeat some of the words or ideas that Heineken’s brand trust would hope I’d retain. Now what? It wouldn’t be an accomplishment any greater than those of branded TV commercials in the 1960s, and would be of similarly questionable value. What’s the conversation here? Wouldn’t it be useful to prompt something more than passing qualitative retention of an idea, as if it had any value if it were so retained, and instead prompt another action?

The opportunity is really clouded with a challenge that, as one Dim Bulber put it when helping me understand this campaign and many social programs broadly:

“Ever since social media came along, marketers have become so tactic focused that they seem to regularly be missing the plot. We sometimes forget that for a brand to mean something, it has to mean something.”

Now there’s the start of a great plot!

(Image credit: Digital Buyologie)

Original Post: http://www.dimbulb.net/my_weblog/2011/01/ive-lost-the-plot.html