Robert Sawatzky
Apr 30, 2020

Locked out of bars, how Heineken and Tiger Beer are adapting during COVID-19

The brand director of Tiger and Heineken in APAC explains how the beer brands are aiming to contribute, not just communicate, during the crisis.

Locked out of bars, how Heineken and Tiger Beer are adapting during COVID-19

One of the most-severely hit industries by local lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic has been the food & beverage (F&B) industry. Restaurants have been limited to providing takeout and delivery, but largely miss out on lucrative in-house drink sales.

In Singapore, one of the biggest supplier brands to be directly affected by this is Asia-Pacific Breweries' (APB) Tiger Beer. While Tiger's own sales may be hurting, it realised its customers needed even more support and quickly moblised a campaign to support local stores and restaurants.

In an interview with Campaign Asia-Pacific, Maud Meijboom-van Wel, brand director of Tiger Beer and Heineken APAC, discusses how the beer makers plan to come out of the crisis as "brands that really contributed and realised something for the greater good".

What has been the impact of COVID-19 on your ability to market Tiger Beer and Heineken effectively in APAC? And how much do you rely on OOH and F&B locations for brand signage and hyperlocal marketing versus other marketing or media initiatives?

Under normal circumstances, we market our beers using a mix of ATL and BTL advertising that includes digital, TV, OOH and sponsorships. The impact of COVID-19 has made us revise this mix on a market-by-market basis. Depending on what stage of the crisis a market is in, consumers are changing their consumption and purchase behaviours, and this is especially true in markets under some form of lockdown. To maximise reach and relevance, at Heineken we continuously adapt our media and BTL strategy based on that. In general, for markets in lockdown or with limited movement allowed, OOH is stopped, whilst we increase efforts on digital, social and TV.

What is very concerning to us is that because of the circuit breaker or lockdown measures, the business impact on our local pubs, restaurants, coffee shops and food courts is severe. These are our customers and they make our streets the lifeblood of every community.

With Tiger Beer, we started the #SupportOurStreets initiative across Asia to help these F&B businesses tide over these difficult times. It is also a call to people to rally behind their favourite local food outlets as a show of support and to stimulate people to go out to these outlets with family and friends once this is allowed again after safe distancing measures are over.

With Heineken, we have launched many different assets under #SocialiseReponsibly to engage with our consumers and customers across the globe. With so many of us are under some form of a lockdown, we encourage people to look at being apart as just another way of being together.

How are you measuring effects on brand awareness? Is one brand (Tiger vs. Heineken) affected more than the other?

We track our brands on an ongoing basis through our internal monitoring tools as well as looking at usual sensors – including website traffic, media value earned, share of voice, to social media engagement, among others.

Since the onset of the pandemic, our focus has been to make a difference. Simply continuing with marketing campaigns we had or were coming up with would not have resulted in creating meaningfulness. We don’t want to come out of the crisis as brands that do great communication.

We want to come out of the crisis as brands that really contributed and realised something for the greater good. Whether that is supporting F&B businesses or creating awareness in the community through initiatives like #SupportOurStreets and #SocialiseResponsibly.

We very rapidly worked with our agencies to create content that would build that engagement, and create awareness, togetherness and support. We are already seeing a lot of very positive engagement as a result and continue to track how brand awareness has and will affect our brands.

Many brands are shifting to digital to reach consumers in their homes. How has your digital strategy altered?

This pandemic, like other recent crises, has been a booster for digital transformation. We were well-placed to ride this change as digital has been an important part of our marketing strategy globally as well as in APAC for many years already.

Now, more than ever before, people are looking for digital content that cheers them up, that creates a sense of community and togetherness, and that entertains them and puts a smile on their face. We are creating assets that aim to do just that, dependent on audience and market.

Globally, through #SocialiseResponsibly, we launched Ode to Close, a beautiful film that reflects what people are feeling, and that drives home the message that even though we are apart, we can still feel together. In Vietnam, we launched assets around uncaging positivity which resulted in a lot of engagement and a reach of over 30 million.

Running global campaigns and allowing markets to create relevant and targeted ‘local top-spin’ works well. It captures the spirit of our brands in a very local context. It is imperative that we also continue to develop a clear view of how consumer needs and behaviours are changing as we emerge from this crisis and that we develop a clear perspective of our brand’s longer-term digital future in response to that.

To what extent have purpose and community initiatives become more important to Tiger across Asia?

During times of stress and uncertainty, consumers tend to revert their focus on local communities, and this is even more true in this era of lockdowns and restrictions of movement. Such times also call for brands to contribute strongly to community well-being ahead of commercial and corporate considerations.

This thinking in fact inspired and informed our latest #SupportOurStreets campaign which aims to build a sense of community in two ways. Firstly, in line with local governments’ communication, it reminds, urges, and incentivises people to stay off the streets and stay home for the greater wellbeing and health of the community. Secondly, it calls on people to stand together and support local F&B businesses who are now strained like never before.

But even before the outbreak of the global pandemic, we always believed it is our duty as a brand to engage with and give back to the community in different ways.  For years now – even before this latest campaign to support local F&B businesses – we have hosted Tiger Street Food Festivals around the region and have been raising money for the Tiger Street Food Support Fund in Singapore. Our Tiger Roar Community is a platform that supports undiscovered creative talents in art, music dance, food, and fashion to give them tangible opportunities that lets them showcase and bring to life their craft.

What response have you had from the #SupportOurStreets campaign?  How has this compared to expectations?

#SupportOurStreets is a campaign that seeks to support local pubs, restaurants, hawkers, coffee shops and food courts tide over these difficult times, and to date, more than €950,000 has been pledged in Malaysia (MYR1.5 million) and Singapore (SGD1 million).

We are seeing support of this initiative by both the F&B community and the public. In Vietnam, consumer engagement hit tens of millions.

This bodes well for the campaign’s expansion to Cambodia and Thailand in the coming weeks. We are excited to see this movement grow across the region and more importantly, to be able to help local F&B businesses who are struggling now.

How fluid are your future marketing plans given how dependent you might be on government directives and the shape of economic recovery?

We strictly abide by governments’ laws and regulations and will continue to do so. This is especially important when these directives save lives.  As for future marketing plans, COVID-19 requires forward-thinking, new strategies and re-planning. We are full of optimism though. We will come out of this one day and we will come out stronger.