A few weeks ago, I was showing a cousin visiting from Germany (in the middle of a year-long volunteering stint in Mexico City) around Los Angeles. Part of that trip took us to the Pueblo de Los Angeles – the original city of Los Angeles – and its environs. Needless to say, the area is heavily hispanic. So, it wasn’t surprising to see a bus shelter ad for a Mexican beer written in Spanish. I asked my cousin to translate what it said and tell me what the beer’s reputation was in Mexico. His response was that the copy was just announcing that it was coming, but from his experience in Mexico over the past year he intimated that the beer itself was thought of as one of the lower quality ones in Mexico. From the image and messaging alone, someone who didn’t know about the brand or its quality would be led to believe that it was of a quality that we, in the US, will be lucky to finally be able to enjoy. Worst case scenario? Heineken should get credit for putting a nice shade of lipstick on the pig.
On the surface, it seems that the distributors of the beer have done an intriguing job of setting the brand as something that it might not be. The branding (developed by London-based Bulletproof) was striking enough to engage me to find out what it was. The fact that the imagery of the Aztec leader and copy made me think that it was something special to behold is a testament to the marketing team. Then, to find that the quality is not so great, I was oddly intrigued to find out more. As soon as I saw the beer in stores last week, I dug around and found some interesting things.
It ends up that Heineken owns the Cuauhtémoc-Moctezuma brewery that creates Indio – as well as other Mexican beers, Tecate, Dos Equis, Sol and more – and the press release states that “they will be focusing on Hispanic men 21-26 years old who are constantly in search for brands that understand their need to express their identity by creatively fusing urban and Latino cultures.”
Could that low age also have to do with the feeling that the age group may not know any better and buy into the conceit that the brand is symbolic of the finer things in Latino cultures? The work done prior to launch in the US seems impressive in that they did a road show with “live performances from DJs and bands, Spanglish tutorials and brand sampling,” but what happens when people start tasting the beer? If it is sub-standard, will they go back to whatever their previous Latino culture alcoholic beverage fave come back into the cooler? I would think so.
Though Heineken did not own the brewery when they launched their “Most Interesting Man” campaign for Dos Equis in 2006, they did a great job reaching the young target with their own Heineken Star Campaign over the past few years. But each of those were marketing products that already existed – and were already considered to be at least decent tasting – in the US market. Could the same be done in bring an entirely new product to the market?
So, with the stated goal of extending Mexican heritage to a generation of Hispanic Americans who may not know any better, will they ever become the wiser? If the quality works and the target buys into the Latino culture bit, then it doesn’t matter that a Mexican beer is owned by a Dutch company with a brand designed by a London firm. It will just be an intriguing little secret behind a new brand that its owners have crossed their fingers in hopes of success. If it falls flat, then you still have to acknowledge they did a decent job with prettying up the pig…