I associate Heineken adverts with those polished baubles of lifestyle fakery from the Champions League ad breaks.
Now comes a very different and rather good advert called ‘Worlds Apart’. Two strangers with opposing views meet and complete a task together, before their views are revealed and they must decide whether to leave or stay and have a conversation.
It’s a drastic change in style and IMO a brave attempt to play in the tricky ‘moral high ground’, the space between what matters to people and what matters to brands. This is not easy – just ask Pepsi.
Will Burns in Forbes magazine notes that the ad is being based on the idea that people want to be ‘heard’, or listened to, which fits with beer’s cultural values. Simon Mainwaring calls it a good example of combining purpose with profit, in keeping with Heineken’s 2016 mission to “brew a better world”.
Of course there is the inevitable backlash, such as this excoriating piece by The DiDi Delgado, who seems to have forgotten it is only an advert, yet calls us all stupid.
And we must be wary of the idea that ‘brands with purpose’ abound and are successful because of their sense of purpose – a false idea, as shown by Richard Shotton.
But I rate it because the basic idea rings true: people want and need to be heard and listened to, but rarely experience this. As a result, we disconnect from each other, increasingly living within a ‘bubble’, often without realising it. We hide behind our beliefs or assumptions, reinforced by our media weapons of choice.
We are also ‘boxed in’ by conventional social interactions. Consider the average board meeting, focus group discussion, family Christmas dinner, political debate. Consider how much posturing goes on, how we defend/protect ourselves, judge others, how we dissemble, disguise, disengage, how we ‘play the game’.
Now that the populist forces of Brexit and Trump are on the march, are we becoming even less tolerant, less respecting of authority, less trusting of others, because we are angry and afraid?
A good conversation is hard to achieve but all the more important to pursue. It is not easy to listen to others and to give up or put aside one’s own point of view, for a while at least. But such conversations are possible – I would say necessary - and can help to re-connect people.
Unhurried Conversations were started by Johnnie Moore and Antony Quinn as an attempt at this kind of genuine, open and honest conversation. They allow people to be themselves, not to act a role. It is less about taking more time than taking more care, allowing people to be more in tune with each other and what they're doing, to think differently and connect with people in a refreshing way.
They have now been run in the UK, Australia, Spain and the USA. I now co-host the London ones (details here – free and open to everyone) and I am applying the principles now to research.
So hats off to Heineken and here’s to more good conversations.