Written by Zoe Poxon

Creating a successful political marketing and PR campaign is not an easy task. Take Pepsi’s recent ad that sparked public outrage. It’s the perfect illustration of insensitive comms, which resulted in the ad being pulled and Pepsi issuing a statement of apology.

Since this disastrous PR attempt, beer company Heineken has shown Pepsi how it’s done. Heineken recently launched its own political campaign entitled “Worlds Apart”. And rather than suggesting that a cold beverage can diffuse a protest, Heineken conducts a simple social experiment. Real people, meeting for the first time, are paired up to build flatpack furniture whilst talking to one another about themselves.

Only on completion of the DIY activities does Heineken reveal pre-recorded tapes about their ideological oppositions, and offers the pairs to either stay and talk about their beliefs over a beer, or to leave the room.

All couples choose to stay and chat about their differing views peacefully and respectfully. The ad proves that brands can sensitively approach the topic of politics through marketing; including simply having a chat over a beer. Here are three reasons why the ad works:

  1. Heineken didn’t take an aggressive approach to get their point across. Pepsi’s ad spoke to the Black Lives Matter and #Resistance movements through a staged protest, which has an aggressive and disruptive nature. Instead, the beer company created a relaxed and friendly environment in which real people talk about their lives and beliefs respectfully.
  2. Heineken didn’t appropriate the discussion. Rather it offered a platform for people to talk about and understand one another’s political views. Whereas the public are furious at Pepsi for their tone-deaf ad, and for suggesting that a white model with a soft drink could solve complex racial issues.
  3. Heineken’s ad couldn’t be more on-brand. The experiment set out to ask one simple question: can real people with completely opposing ideologies come together to talk about their differences over a beer? Not only does it feel like a natural fit for Heineken as an international brand that brings people together over a cold alcoholic beverage, but it resonates as we recognise that difficult, real and passionate conversations do often happen over a beer.

So, what is the lesson for other brands? For those brave enough to take on the challenge, Heineken has proved that it pays off to be topically sensitive, and to stay true to your brand.

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