How Heineken and Dr. Seuss Brewed an Incredibly Fun and Engaging Employer Brand Campaign

December 20, 2016

You're off to Great Places!

Today is your day!

Your mountain is waiting.

So...get on your way!

If you had the joy of reading Dr. Seuss stories when you were a kid (it’s never too late), you know those four lines are from Oh the Places You Go.

Now, you’re probably wondering what this has to do with recruiting. Well for Heineken, it has a lot to do with it. Recently, the company launched a new (and very fun) recruiting campaign called Go Places. This Dr. Seuss-ish video invites talent to respond to 12 questions, which must be answered in three to five seconds.

The purpose of the campaign is to give people a glimpse of what Heineken is all about and encourage them to take the quiz. Based on their answers, candidates are given a personal profile and prompted to send it along with their resume and apply for a job at Heineken on LinkedIn. Here’s a look at the campaign Manifesto, and you can take the interview here:

You might be thinking, “that’s great, but our talent acquisition department doesn’t have the budget for something like that.” And that’s the best part – the Heineken Talent Acquisition team didn’t have to provide the bulk of the budget. "By being creative and bold we managed to deliver a unique campaign with limited resources,” says Alfonso Auñón García, Heineken’s Head of Talent Acquisition.

That’s thanks to the time they took to get the buy-in needed for the campaign and their effort to work cross functionally, especially with the Marketing and Comms teams. Their involvement not only helped resource the campaign, but also made Go Places the high quality success that it is and an example of what a true cross-functional campaign can look like when the entire company rallies behind employer brand.

We’ll get into how Alfonso and team made this happen, but first...

Why Heineken needed a big employer branding campaign

“We realized it was the right time to tell everyone our story,” says Alfonso. By doing this, “We had the opportunity to improve the quality of the applicants we were attracting by giving them a real taste of what it will be like at Heineken so they can self-select out,” he says. “We didn’t want to attract more applicants, we wanted to attract people who will have a passion for working for us.”

This need for an overarching story became apparent because in the past decade, Heineken has been expanding rapidly due to both organic growth and acquisitions. Now, the organization’s portfolio is made up a variety of different brands, including 250 international, regional, local and specialty beers and ciders.

And while this growth is very positive, there was no overarching employer brand story that tied all these brands and the 73,000 employees spread across 70 countries together.

“While there are many local businesses, we all belong to one bigger story and we all share a certain number of values,” says Alfonso. And, they knew they needed to share those values in order to attract the right people.

How they brought Heineken’s employer brand story and Go Places to life

Building the story for Heineken’s employer brand and creating the Go Places campaign took time – nearly 2 years to be exact. And when they first started working on the story, it was only Alfonso, one person from HR, and one consultant.

Here’s how they created this amazing campaign with limited resources:

1. Asked employees and outsiders a series of questions to identify the essence of Heineken’s employer brand

To understand what makes Heineken, Heineken, Alfonso and team started by doing some research. They looked at 20 countries in different functions and asked Heineken employees questions like:

  • What do you think about our leaders?
  • What do you love / hate about the company?
  • What is our culture about?
  • If you were to leave, where would you go and why?

Asking these questions helped them identify the commonalities that resonated across different cultures and regions for employees. And that gave them a bucket list of ideas they felt described who they are as organization.

The next step was validating this research by going out and asking people of all ages if their Heineken story was “sexy.” Would they want to work for a company like that? Did it sound like Heineken?

“We saw from this research that we had an employer branding story with a lot of potential,” says Alfonso. And, they knew that if they wanted to turn this into something truly great, they would need the support of other teams.

2. Got buy-in and partnered with Heineken’s HR, Marketing and Communications teams

“I spent over 100 hours pitching the story to HR, Marketing, and Comms” says Alfonso. “But it wasn’t hard to get buy-in. Everyone believed in it from day one and wanted to put resources behind it,” he says.

In fact, a significant portion of the budget came from the Marketing department. “Marketing saw the potential of reaching out to consumers from a different angle and appealing to millennials (our target market) with a bigger story,” says Alfonso. “They put everything behind it."

But, for Alfonso and team, working cross functionally wasn’t just about getting monetary support for the campaign – they knew it would be key to making it truly great and on brand.

“I do not believe in different stories for consumer and employer brand – I believe in one story that makes sense that we tell in different ways to different audiences,” says Alfonso. It had to be a company effort so that the employer brand was in sync with the consumer brand and who the company is as a whole.

3. Used their employer brand research to create the Go Places manifesto

Along with marketing, insights, HR and comms, Alfonso and team spent a lot of time crafting the employer brand DNA based on their research. And, they decided on three core company values that would be a springboard for the Go Places campaign: fame, adventure, and friends.

“We asked ourselves – what are we really about?” says Alfonso. “We believe in a world of opportunity, experiences and diversity,” he says. “Heineken is a brand that was born in Amsterdam and raised by the world” -- they wanted to show people all the opportunities the company has to offer in many different places.

And that’s why Dr. Suess’s Oh the Places You’ll Go came into the picture. The “going places” theme set the tone for the campaign. “Go Places became what we rally behind as an organization. It’s about thinking different, daring to do new things, and exploring,” says Alfonso.

In addition, personality plays a huge role in Heineken’s culture and they wanted to portray who they are as a company in order to attract the right people. “Some people will love the campaign and want to work for Heineken, while others might hate it,” says Alfonso. And, it’s the people who love it who complete the “Interview,” which leads us to….

4. Created the interactive “Interview” to engage potential candidates and screen for personality  

Once they had their core values of fame, adventure, and friends, “we asked ourselves, what kind of people are more likely to be successful in such an environment?’” says Alfonso. “And, we distilled 3 traits per value. For example, under fame, we have ‘commitment to win,’ under adventure we have ‘creativity’ and under friends we have “sense of humor.’” The next step was creating a fun experience that would test for these traits.

“We didn’t want it to be a long boring personality test,” says Alfonso. “So in our Heineken way, we developed questions that help determine traits.” For example, interviewees are shown the scene below and asked to click which makes them more anxious: the room full of people, or the room with one floating man.

“They’re answer can show if they are independent or social,” says Alfonso.

Or, interviewees are shown the below image and asked to select if they are either “independent” or “dependable”:

This shows whether the candidate likes collaborating and close connections with colleagues, or if they prefer going out on their own. Neither is a wrong answer, but the “dependable” result is more in line with Heineken’s friends value. And, the total responses lead to one of eight possible profiles for people who take the “Interview":

  • The Pioneer
  • The Enthusiast
  • The High-Flyer
  • The Initiator
  • The Mediator
  • The Traditionalist
  • The Achiever
  • The Investigator

Above all, “the ‘Interview’ is an engaging experience that allows people to get a sense of Heineken’s culture and also gives people something back: a unique profile where they can learn something about themselves,” says Alfonso. “For us, a person’s answers can show how aligned they are with each of our three core values.”

In addition to answering the questions, the “Interview” is tailored to different countries. The interviewer’s clock, which shows your local time, and the beers and food are all based on location. For example, when interviewees are asked to pick between a “surprise dish” or “the classic,” people in Mexico see empanadas while viewers in Vietnam see noodle soup. Here’s what I saw taking it in the US:

These details serve to make the experience highly relevant for people in different cultures and shows how global Heineken truly is.

In addition, real Heineken employees and stories were used in the “Interview,” giving it an even more personal touch.

After the completing the interview, people are driven to Heineken's LinkedIn page, where they can explore job openings and apply. They can also share their results with friends on social, like so:

5. Promoted the campaign and used the “Interview” results during the hiring process

So far, the Go Places campaign has been deployed in 15 countries. "It lives and breathes on social and is complemented by face-to-face interaction,” says Alfonso.

Execution of the campaign is local, meaning different countries are using it in different ways. For example, teams in some countries give the test to candidates who come in for in-person interviews and then discusses the results. And some teams are using it internally --employees take the test to find out their results and discuss them with each other so that they can work better together.

“Most countries are using it as an engagement experience,” says Alfonso. “If people love it and apply, they can then potentially come into real life interviews and talk about their results. It’s a springboard for conversations.”

The results

Of the thousands of people who have taken the 6 minute quiz, 70% have completed it and 13% of those people have applied to jobs at Heineken.

“It’s performing extremely well in completion of experience, showing that once people start the 'Interview', they love it,” says Alfonso. And “If the engagement is high, the right people will apply to work at Heineken.”

We want people to think “this company is different from any I’ve seen before,” says Alfonso. “And we couldn’t have done it alone.” The close partnership between Talent Acquisition and Marketing, along with the support of HR, Comms and others is what made this campaign so successful.

So, if you’re wishing you could invest more in your employer brand but simply don't have all the resources in the world, do as Alfonso and team did - reach out to your Marketing, HR, and Comms partners for support. If you have a good story, chances are they’ll want to tell it too. After all, a good employer brand will improve the quality of talent at your company and help your company – and every team in it - succeed.

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