How Strongbow hopes to crack new markets with global campaign

It's a big brand in the UK, but in its new global campaign Strongbow faces the challenge of talking to people in countries where cider barely exists.

The campaign, "Refresh and connect", breaks on Monday in an initial eight markets, but Sharon Walsh, global director of cider at Heineken, said it would later run in at least 25 markets.

The campaign include TV, mobile video, cinema and outdoor, with the creatives across all media using a "split screen" visual device which puts images of apples and orchards alongside shots of friends enjoying drinks together.

It was created by Sandrine Huijgen and Jessica Kersten at Cloudfactory Amsterdam, and directed by Greg & Lio through Friend London.

"The biggest challenge is that in many of these countries people do not have a clue what cider is," Walsh said. This meant the campaign had to be "as impactful as possible while doing the basic job" of communicating what the product was made from and which drinking occasions it could be suitable for.

Romancing the apple

Heineken divides cider markets into four tiers, she said, each of which has its own challenges. Established markets, where people already "have cider in their routine", tend to be those with the most British cultural influence – including Canada, South Africa and the Nordic nations.

Then there’s what they call "young cider markets", where the drink is becoming known but is less embedded. These include several European countries, as well as the US.

The third is "white space markets", where cider has effectively no presence – these include Mexico, Nigeria and Vietnam. Vietnam presents a "perfect opportunity" to popularise the brand, Walsh said, because 80-90% of alcohol currently sold there is beer – but people in Vietnam love sweet drinks and often drink their beer over ice.

The fourth category is "old world cider" markets, including France, Spain and Argentina, where cider is quite a different drink to the English style, tends to be sold in large bottles and drunk seasonally, and so presents a whole different set of marketing challenges.

In each case, the target consumer is the 20% of people globally that drink alcohol but don’t like beer, Walsh said. But because cider is not a well-known drink, it’s important to get the point across about how it is made.

"In new markets the risk is that it becomes seen as an alcopop," she said. "So it’s really important that we talk about ‘romancing the apple’. Orchards and nature play a big role in that."

City burnout

Like last year’s Heineken campaign, "Open your world", the Strongbow campaign is informed by the role that cities increasingly play in them lives of the world’s urban population. But while that campaign was about using the city as a launchpad for adventure, this one is more about offering escape.

"Strongbow has always been focused on nature and on urban and city lives," Walsh said. 2016 campaign "Nature remix" played with the idea of the natural world reclaiming space in urban environments.

"There’s a real insight behind that – urbanites, people living in the city, are so caught up with the pace in the city that you often need to leave to reconnect. We wanted to go back to real times and basic times – a real rural feel we can bring to the city to help people refresh themselves."

For the mobile executions of the campaign, Strongbow worked with the Facebook Creative Shop global team in Amsterdam – a partnership Walsh said came out of a previous collaboration between Heineken UK and the London Facebook Creative Shop team on Birra Moretti.

"We brought Facebook in to get some advice on what works," she said. "We don’t have all the money in the world. We’re a small category and need to make sure our spend is efficient. We used the Moretti thing as our inspiration to come in early – the UK team did a phenomenal job."

But although Heineken has a loose aspiration for 50% of its media spend globally to go on digital by 2020 – up from around 30% now – Walsh said TV remained vital: "When you’re building a completely new category, the TV spot plays a big role."

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