Branding is as important as ever, but brand building has certainly evolved over time. It is also now harder than ever for brands to remain relevant in the market. Gianluca di Tondo, Senior Global Brand Director for the Heineken® Brand, is passionate about brands and the power they have to make a positive contribution to society.

He is equally passionate about maintaining the highest standards of quality, and Gianluca’s passion is matched by his extensive brand experience (19 years with Heineken). As he knows what it is like to be a part of such a globally recognised brand, he is in a perfect position to give some highly useful insights about brand building and how to stay current and relevant to audiences.

The position of the Heineken brand is important to consider. It is, after all, a brand with a huge legacy – especially in the Netherlands. The Heineken Museum in Amsterdam acknowledges all the key moments in the history of the brand. Of course, for a brand to have such a prominent standing, it is an enviable position to be in, but Gianluca identifies the need to change and evolve. This inevitably presents some interesting challenges.

Gianluca is clear that brands need to recognise that step changes and turning points are required to stay relevant in today’s market. He explains how Heineken realised that the brand needed to move forward, not just in terms of performance but also in terms of consumer perception. He says, “Today we are talking a lot about the purpose of the brand, and we are working hard to make the purpose for the Heineken brand resonating more with the consumer.”

Gianluca identifies two key changes that have shaped the way Heineken continues to build its brand. First and foremost, he sees the biggest change to be in the consumer. People, especially millennials, are now driven by different motivations than previous generations. There has also been as shift in the relationship between the brand and the consumer, which Gianluca puts down to a digital revolution. With the beer business being traditionally driven, Heineken recognised the need for change. Gianluca explains: “everything became digital and for the first time you have a media that is not only is a media, but also a content provider, so for marketers, we had to adapt ourselves.”

With the new target audience changing at a rapid pace it is vital that brands realise that what is on trend one day might not on trend tomorrow. Gianluca is clear that brand marketers should never feel that they have ‘cracked it’ with their target audience. He advises that brands need to be “at the edge, because you know tomorrow there’s going to be a different challenge. Tomorrow there are different channels that are going to rise. You need to be very quick in mastering all these changes.”

Today’s brand building requires companies to have their fingers firmly on the pulse of things, or as Gianluca describes it “at the edge.” This has striking similarities to the ideas shared by our recent podcast guest, Atilla Cansun from Merck Consumer Health Company. Atilla talked of Fingerspitzengefühl: “which is this ability to read a little bit in between the lines, ability to connect actually with the situation that, you know, smell the air a little bit in the room.”

From a brand building perspective both Atilla and Gianluca identify a key change as being the need to make a difference on “emotional territory.” As Atilla described it, the goal should be to “build brands that open people’s hearts that people fall in love with.”

It’s interesting to note that Gianluca’s comments echo those of previous podcast guests. Stijn Demeersseman from L’Oréal talked about the impact that bloggers and vloggers have had on brands. For a family-owned company like Heineken, controlling the brand is very important, but Gianluca recognises that “we are living today in a moment which you cannot control everything because the consumer wants to create content on your brand.”

Speaking about the need for the Heineken to promote its purpose and to continue to resonate with target audiences, Gianluca says that he “would really love to be remembered as the guy who do it”- showing that personal goals and passion still drive him on, even after nearly two decades with the brand.

Please let us know if you have any questions or thoughts!


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