Cities of the World

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Great cities are the world’s pulse.

Over half the world’s population now live in cities and this continues to grow at a rapid pace. Cities therefore represent Heineken’s biggest future opportunity.

As the world’s most international premium lager, Heineken is available to buy in cities around the world, but with the emergence of craft beers and the trend to “buy local”, the competition had never been stiffer. The brand needed a bold, yet focused approach to maintain and grow its position.

But how could a brand known as the ‘largest international beer brand’ prove that instead of being an international outsider to cities, it’s actually an all-knowing insider?

Starcom MediaVest Group took to the city streets and found that the young, urban male audience suffered from the social phenomenon ‘FOMO’ (Fear of Missing Out). These guys have great affinity with their city and love the thousands of opportunities on offer however find the overload of choice daunting. As a result they often fall into a frustrating routine. Interestingly, this global insight surfaced in unique ways by market – for example in London late night transport troubles were found to restrict experiences, whereas in New York a sense of subconscious routine inhibited new adventures.

This insight would lead the agency to create a globally relevant campaign to help men harness everything their city had to offer, but allow for fluid local adaption based on bespoke local insights. No local beer could have the power or insight to pull that off…


SMG set out to prove Heineken’s worth and relevance to young city dwellers by helping them to unlock everything their city had to offer.

With the brand’s worldly persona, Heineken was in a unique position to demonstrate to young men they could have worldly adventures right in their own backyard (their city or neighbourhood).

With this, the ‘Cities of the World’ platform strategy was crafted; to inspire and facilitate young men all over the world to unlock the secrets of their city.

This meant delivering the right inspiration, but more importantly the right tools and experiences to enable guys to step out of their comfort zone and find the path less travelled. To embrace new adventure and harness everything their city had to offer.

‘Cities of the World’ would become the largest global ‘local insight driven’ platform; underpinned by a single strategy and global assets, while having the ability to be leveraged in distinct ways by different markets.

This local relevance started with Heineken’s own product, as the agency transformed the iconic global bottle into a local one bearing the name of 55 worldly cities. 

The agency then set out on a great challenge –translating the global platform into 111 locally relevant campaigns; as to be a real local insider Heineken would have to unlock each city in its own unique way based on local insights, challenges and surroundings.


‘Cities of the World’ was executed as a single global platform but localised in unique and creative ways.

SMG first launched globally with a Cities film to inspire adventure. Heineken’s ‘Cities’ bottles then hit shelves - the first time Heineken had changed its iconic label at scale.

Social and mobile functioned as city compasses via an innovative service called @wherenext, which uses live social data to guide people to the hottest pubs, bars or clubs in real-time. This service was supported by social and mobile display; geo-fenced and time-targeted to the most thriving areas over the weekend. It fuelled the algorithm with insider information, mobilising influencers to post about their adventures.

Markets then found local insights and enriched their campaign with ambient led activations that inspired exploration i.e;

- In London the agency found young guys struggle to leave their ‘boroughs’ because of the cost and hassle of late-night transport. So Heineken branded-cabs literally drove people out of their ‘zone’, ordered via social media.

- In New York guys needed to be confronted to break routine, so ringing payphones and mobile phones left in Uber cars challenged those brave enough to pick-up to drop everything and try something new.

- In Singapore young men are inspired by cities, but don’t necessarily have the opportunity to experience them. So it brought cities to them via the ‘Heineken Cities Festival’.

A further 108 markets hosted competitions, organised events, hijacked social media, created content and designed innovative POS. Everything linked to the ‘Cities’ bottles and delivered local insider knowledge and experiences.  


The Heineken ‘Cities of the World’ campaign delivered unprecedented business success and unlocked great cities across the globe.

Heineken ended 2014 with a volume growth of 5% across its top 20 markets. This was directly attributed to the Cities campaign with over 1 Billion special edition bottles sold worldwide, accounting for 1/3 of Heineken's total 2014 volume uplift.

Heineken reinvigorated its relationship with urban men; in 17 of their top 25 markets they maintained or increased Brand Closeness*.

In specific markets with granular campaign research the brand saw phenomenal growth by 20%-33% in Heineken being the ‘regular beer drunk’ (Brazil, US, Spain – MetrixLab). And in the UK for the first time, Heineken beat out Peroni and Stella on all measured Brand Equity metrics.

@wherenext launched in 32 markets and proved an invaluable service for city explorers. In the four top markets, relevancy and immediate value drove action with CTR +2% delivering +123,000 occasions where people enhanced their night through social data. 

In addition ‘Cities of the World’ films across the global TVC and local films received 60 million+ online views.

*Brand Closeness is defined by two questions; ‘Heineken is a great brand for me’ AND ‘A brand that shares my interest’.

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Drinks (alcoholic)
June - November 2014
Starcom Mediavest
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