Cool, fun, Dutch. These are the words you think of when you think of Heineken. But they also perfectly describe this week's interviewee, the Senior Brand Manager for Blind Pig and Old Mout, two of the UK's most distinct flavoured ciders. Except, as I found out, there's so much more to Otto Esser.
No Such Thing As Borders
"What I really love about Heineken is that it's a global company, and the prospect of an international career really appealed to me."
Originally hailing from The Netherlands, Otto doesn't let borders get stand the way of his career.
He began working for Heineken in Nigeria, staying there for six months as a project manager. Previous to that, he'd studied, worked and volunteered in Egypt, Guatemala, Ecuador, Denmark. At the beginning of 2013, Otto moved the London as an assistant Brand Manager for Heineken.
Taking The Initiative
It's not just the prospect of a globetrotting life that appealed to Otto. An innovative and entrepreneurial spirit is also shared between Heineken.
"Across all the brands, if you have initiatives, there's a real good opportunity to bring that to life,"
and now leading the brand management for Heineken's flavoured ciders, Otto is doing just that.
One such brand, Blind Pig, has particularly gone against its category’s status quo. Inspired by the prohibition era in 1920's America, the strategy is for drinkers to 'discover' the brand, much like prohibition drinkers discovered speakeasies, as opposed the Heineken’s big budget media campaigns. Through collaborating with creators such as @ryanxhoward, @justabitofjacob and @mattshr, Otto and his team have experimented with channels previously unfamiliar to Heineken.
Marketing At The Forefront
Still, marketing is at the very core of everything that Heineken does, as Otto explains,
“we believe in building long term brand value. It’s inspiring to work in a company where your function is at the forefront.”
Just this week, the global brand made headlines again with a viral social experiment, playing on controversial themes and proving their marketing is still a cut above the rest.
Social plays a large part in Otto’s strategy too. In the five years he’s been at Heineken, he’s seen a shift in mobile, digital and social media. “Of any media space, anything that comes through on your phone is the most personal, and it is a big part of our plan. Around 25% of our budget goes to mobile, and we’re aiming to increase that to 50% by 2020.” A wise move particularly for cider brands, such as Old Mout and Blind Pig, whose drinkers are increasingly engaging with social media more than traditional forms of media.
Otto tells me that fundamentally he believes that “if you do something you love, you’ll do well,” meaning that whatever he does next will surely be special.