Saturday 21 July 2018

Keeping Irish drinkers excited with new tastes

Marketing Director of Heineken Sharon Walsh talks about the importance of innovation in the beer industry

Sharon Walsh, delivering success at Heineken
Sharon Walsh, delivering success at Heineken

Sharon Walsh

It used to be a lot simpler: people would choose a Guinness, Heineken or Bulmers, depending on the weather, and it was mostly in the pub. Keeping the Heineken brand on top, however, was our key focus.

Today, the challenge for our team is much more complex. A new world of alcohol has emerged. With new categories like craft beers and spirits, new channels and drinking occasions, people want variety and different brand and taste experiences.

My challenge is to lead a culture that embraces change, drives innovation and never gets complacent.

In recent years, to deliver success for Heineken Ireland, I knew we fundamentally needed to change how we do marketing. The role of marketing needed to shift from a support role to become a powerful generator of growth across the business. We needed to disrupt our business model and ways of working to respond at the pace of the consumer.

To do this, we aligned the business around a new five-year consumer-centric vision with innovation at its core. We fostered a faster-moving, entrepreneurial culture with a bold ambition. This allowed us to pre-empt change and excite customers with new brand, taste and marketing experiences.

In 2015, we grew our market share with our portfolio of beer brands. We disrupted the cider market by launching Orchard Thieves - our single most successful sales and marketing story of last year. In just eight months we stole a chunky share of the cider market and doubled our target for the year.

As a large company, we were brave and entered the micro-segment 'craft' by launching Cute Hoor into Irish pubs. We were bold in our scale of innovation by investing, more than ever before, in 'new' and 'next' marketing initiatives for our hero brand Heineken, maintaining its position as the biggest, and most loved, lager in Ireland.

Ireland is now leading the way across our business, on a number of initiatives, and marketing is leading the business around one core focus.

The task now is to continue to build our organisation to be brave and to fail forward.

To maintain the pace, we need to wake up every day motivated to create new ideas to excite our drinkers, our colleagues and to make our workplace a fearless, fun environment. It's one team, one focus.

It's often scary but always fun!

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