An Interview with HEINEKEN’s Brand Director, Nic Casby


Nic Casby is HEINEKEN’s Brand Director and we got to speak to him about London’s new pub by the name of ‘The Open Arms.’ Amstel created the unique pub entirely from garden fences, embodying the concept of togetherness and community with juxtaposing materials as fences function as barriers. The Open Arms launches UK Neighbors’ Week, which runs from June 17th to June 23rd this year, encouraging neighbors to come together and create a sense of community with the locals. 

The Open Arms is located next to the Tower Bridge and the design directly responds to London’s Festival of Architecture, with this year’s theme focused on ‘boundaries.’ Amstel is a label that values a sense of community and the new pub is the perfect embodiment of that branding. 

Can you tell me about The Open Arms pub and how the idea came about?

It started with the idea of the ‘Bridges on Bridges’ campaign, where Jeff Bridges starred as a big human bridge in Amsterdam encouraging people to come together. With Amstel, I guess what we said leads to that whole position is to get away from leaving your distances at the door and focusing on the purposes of getting together. We also wanted to walk the walk with this campaign, and you can see that we get more interested in the cause. We thought very much that rather than in the UK, we stuck with the society, the community, and linked back to the fact that over half of the people (Londoners) there don’t know their next-door neighbor’s names, 31% of people don’t know what their neighbors look like, and 31% of people don’t know what their neighbors look like – and we felt like that was something we could probably help with, but in a positive way without being too interfering or ridiculous. So, what we’ve done is we worked with a Dutch architect to build a pub essentially from fences, garden fences. This idea was that fences represent barriers, often physical barriers. So we wanted to demonstrate that actually, those barriers don’t need to be there so often what we find actually is that everyone is so busy that it might be intriguing if we just go and talk to them and stand to just say no, do cross that boundary and get a chance to talk, see any issues, and come together. Often that can add value and our lead architect, Denis Oudenjik, is creating the structure so people can experience this for one day (Friday, 14th June). This kicks off the launch of a nation-wide Neighbour’s Week (17-23rd June). Essentially here, we how our relationship goes beyond just this pub, by connecting with many regional pubs that we have here in the UK, within our business. We’re looking to support this by having a lot of media awareness in the London community and throughout the UK – which will encourage people to get to their local.

Why is community such an important element to Amstel and HEINEKEN’s branding?

I mean I guess you know we know that people are looking for brands, especially millennials, make their decisions based on social conscience. Especially in the UK, we felt like this was an area that could really work for us giving us a relevant cultural issue right here. With countries like the home of Amstel, Holland, they are very close with their neighbors – they have a saying, ‘a good neighbor is as good as a faraway friend’. We wanted to relate to that, which is why we drew in that culture to build a brand embassy to position it stronger in the UK and make it something to be talked about and get people to connect to that.

Do you see a connection between regional trends and global trends at your company?

We’d say that in the UK, everything starts in a region and builds up in the same way that we handle our distribution and understand the crowd, so trends happen in certain pockets and then they go viral. If you’re asking me, do I think the sense of community is a trend that’s a problem across the world, then I’d probably say that the media, particularly in the UK, talks about division. With technology and mobile phones, it connects through many ways in comparison to when you’re in the park and you sit down, to look out and around at what could be at immediate capacity. There is a macro of applicable global trends than there are trends that just fit into a certain market or geography.

In terms of Amstel’s branding, where does it currently stand and what are it’s brand goals? 

We’re from the UK so we’re what we call premium entry 4.1% lager, so we’re not mainstream but its sort of that entry premium beer. We want to build a stark position to get a community to almost see us like a special brand that connects to liquor brands as well where some people that sees it connect from the local base as well as a global base. We want to be fighting for the different challenges and bind it as well.

There seems to be a lot more engagement with breweries through its branding. Where do you think your industry will look like in 10 years?

Fundamentally, just putting things out on TV in say a 50-60-second spot doesn’t really connect to consumers, who are becoming much more socially conscious and experience-based. They are finding facts on the internet so there should be much more transparency about one’s production, what ingredients are used, and such. People are learning through experience and it is a great opportunity now to use distances to create more connections that are beyond just shallow or superficial. I think as an industry, we started that journey and based on being able to build a brand experience, we expect it to continue to grow in the way that it should.

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