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Heineken to toast smart beer at ad:tech London

News   •   Aug 19, 2013 10:32 BST

Heineken has changed a lot from the days when the Dutch brewer used to attempt to placate the British thirst for beer and a fight with a dull watered down version made especially for these shores.

Not only did we eventually get the proper stuff (to my great delight, being a half Dutch teenager growing up in the sticks of South Wales), in 2014 Heineken and Tribal DDB are set to unleash Ignite – the product of an intense start-up style R&D process designed to create a magical Heineken moment when people say ‘cheers’. Naturally, Ignite has been dubbed the “world’s first interactive beer bottle”.

Launched at Milan Design Week in April, Heineken wants to use mobile innovation and technology to create a memorable brand experience that uses the product itself as the interface for new social interactions between connected drinkers. A “smart beer”, if you like…

With Google, Apple and Samsung reportedly set to battle Sony in the race for the lead in wearable technology market, will 2014 be the year when consumers embrace the previously humble beer bottle and wrist watch as platforms to communicate and share content? Is e-commerce and m-commerce set to be joined by a new type of connected commerce that uses products themselves as purchasing platforms? Or are these just gimmicks that will fail to wet consumer appetite and generate mainstream appeal?

Tamara Roukaerts, director of mobile consultancy TRM&C and former head of marketing at Aurasma, believes the Heineken experiment is just the tip of the iceberg: “Ignite is a fantastic example of a brand and an agency adopting a lean start-up mentality and hacking together a new product innovation. This wasn’t a case of using tech for tech’s sake. They stripped the product back to its core social value – how sharing a beer connects people – and used technology to bring that value to life in a new way, literally bringing people to the party.

“With mobile components becoming cheaper and smaller, it’s now possible for brands and agencies to think of mobile innovation in terms beyond just apps. We’re seeing a major shift towards smart devices at the moment and there’s a great opportunity for brands to revitalise traditional products by adding connectivity. The key challenge will be moving beyond PR stunts and actually commercialising these innovations in a way that adds real value to the customer experience.”

Heineken, Tribal and other proponents clearly have a point. Most mobile manufacturers extoil the social media credentials of even their most budget devices and few would now put their time, energy and money into making phone that just makes calls (as nice as this function would be on the average smartphone).

A connected beer bottle could sensibly be seen as a natural extension of Heineken’s digital-savvy brand and aside from ensuring that hip young folk are seen on YouTube parading around uber-hip nightclubs with glow-in-the-dark bottles, it’s also an unprecedented opportunity for Heineken to steer the social conversation by owning the platform on which it takes place.

Lots of brands got it wrong with mobile and those who successfully invested are now reaping the rewards. The “smart” money is on that pattern being repeated with early adopters benefiting from investment in new types of connected technology that truly embed digital functionality into the products they make.

Paul Smailes, Heineken’s global head of digital and Sandra Krstic, Tribal DDB’s deputy managing partner, will be discussing plans for Ignite in adtech London’s dedicated Future Media & Technology Summit. Tamara Roukaerts will moderating a panel on augmented reality and emerging mobile technologies featuring contributions from Asos and Tottenham Hotspur, joining brands such as Unilever, Boots, Ford, McLaren and Kellogg in a packed programme over two days.

Find out more about the ad:tech London event and register at: