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The voice of the brand strategy consultancy, The Portnoy Group Inc.

The Brand Man Speaks is a dialogue about the consuming world in which we live and a guide to successfully navigating it. The goal is to educate people and companies about branding, the most powerful yet misunderstood business tool.

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Heineken wants to be Starbucks; the approach undermines its goal-by Eli


Heinekin, one  of the most popular beers in the world, is trying to use the Starbucks' Coffee business model (read: experiential marketing) to increase its awareness, sales and revenue.  The problem is the concept as delivered is more out of home advertising effort than experiential branding.

In Hong Kong's airport Heinekin has built a beer bar that reflects the color, look and feel of the Heinekin brand. The setting includes TV screens showing Heinekin ads and Heinekin supported sporting events.

However, unlike Starbucks, this beer bar serves many brands beyond just Heinekin; (although only Heinekin is served on tap). It is pretty hard to deliver a unique, consumer relevant and differentiated experience for any brand if the experience is freely intertwined with its competitors and nothing about the environment truly distinguishes the "star" brand from the other offerings.  Obviously, Starbucks does not serve other brands of coffee in their "small indulgence" oriented community living room settings.

That is not to say that this idea couldn't have been tested as a Heinekin stand-alone mini-bar (although the alcoholic beverage company is prohibited from  owning outright such facilities in many countries including the US) where the customer could be completely immersed in the Heinekin brand story and mystique.

It will be interesting to see how many more locations Heinekin opens and how well received they are in their current form, beyond just a nice place for a beer while waiting for your flight.

Watching out for you everyday.



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