Big Brands Go Big On Mobile: Heineken And Walmart Share Their Stories

ANAconferenceIt’s become generally accepted wisdom that brands aren’t dedicating dollars to mobile at a rate commensurate with consumer time spent.

That said, certain big brands like Walmart and Heineken are embracing mobile as a key part of their advertising initiatives.

“Going forward, we will always view campaigns as mobile-first,” said Ron Amram, senior media director at Heineken USA, speaking at the ANA’s Mobile First, Mobile Everywhere conference in New York City on Tuesday.

Heineken Drinks To Mobile

Mobile appeals to beer mega-brand Heineken for four reasons: its scalability, ubiquity, engagement and ability to get seriously personal.

“You can go completely mobile and still be successful with your campaigns,” Amram said.

One practical example of that is a recent campaign Heineken ran in the southeastern US for sub-brand Desperados, a tequila-infused beer that’s become one of the fastest-growing beverage brands in Europe.

The likely market for Desperados, which was nearly unknown in the US at the beginning of 2014, is very specific: digitally engaged millennial night owls who are effectively married to their mobile devices. “This is not a beer that you drink on a Sunday afternoon while you’re watching a football game on television,” Amram quipped. “It’s a very narrow slice of the beer-drinking universe.”

Heineken knew that mobile was the best way to reach this demographic, but it’s not always easy to get the stakeholders on board.

“Our plan was focused on creating specific mobile content for this audience, but there’s a tremendous amount of pressure to prove that digital, especially mobile, works,” Amram said. “There’s a lot of skepticism. We get feedback like, ‘Why don’t you launch this brand on TV and use some traditional media? My kids love their mobile devices, but I’m not sure I’m comfortable putting a lot of energy, effort and money into this.’”

So Heineken built a traditional media plan, including TV and outdoor, and let it run for three months. At the beginning of that three-month period, brand awareness of Desperados among the target market was zero. At the end of the period, brand awareness was…still at zero.

“That media plan had no impact,” Amram said.

Then Heineken launched a three-month mobile-centric campaign that revolved around contextually targeted mobile ads. After three months, brand awareness went from 0% to 23%.

Walmart Catches The Mobile Bug

“Walmart is a very unique client to work with because it’s a huge media company in and of itself,” said Coleen Kuehn, president of client leadership at MediaVest USA.

Kuehn and her team worked with Walmart to create an omnichannel media plan for the July launch of Walmart’s Savings Catcher, an extension of the brand’s existing app which automatically gives users cashback discounts on any item purchased if another store in the area has a better deal. All that customers have to do is scan their receipt and Walmart’s database of competitive advertised prices does the rest.

MediaVestUSA used a combination of mass and targeted media – paid, owned and earned – to get the word out during the back-to-school season. Mobile played a starring role.

“Mobile was a huge part of the campaign, specifically because it allowed us to go beyond static display banners to teach people about the product features to explain how this thing really works,” Kuehn said.

Walmart ran an app download campaign targeted at both Apple and Android users. The brand also tapped existing app users by geofencing the more than 5,000 Walmart locations across the US.

“But it’s not just where you are that matters, it’s who you are,” said Kuehn, who noted that Walmart combined its proprietary audience data with third-party data to reach the right people, including lapsed users of the Walmart app.

Walmart ultimately exceeded its original app install goal by 75% and hit No. 1 in the retailer and lifestyle app categories in the Apple app store during the campaign. Walmart is still sitting pretty as the store’s 32nd most popular app overall.

Of the several million receipts submitted, 80% were uploaded on a mobile device. The mobile-focused MediaVest USA campaign produced a 21% lift in an app user’s likelihood to engage with the app and enter their receipt.

Beyond the Savings Catcher, Walmart is sticking to its mobile guns. The brand had its largest Thanksgiving/Black Friday/Cyber Monday ever this year, garnering 1.5 billion page views between Thursday and Monday. Mobile was responsible for a good portion of that traffic.

“It shows how much our customers have shifted to online, but it’s also important to note that our customers shop with us through multiple channels,” said Wanda Young, Walmart’s VP of media, digital and partnership marketing. “We’re seeing a significant amount of mobile traffic that’s converting in-store.”

But successes like the Savings Catcher don’t just happen – they take a lot of background work and a commitment to investing in tech. It took about three years of internal discussion and hands-on work by Walmart’s software and technology accelerator @WalmartLabs to get the job done.

“Frankly, there are things on our digital road map from five years ago that we were working on, but with the technology landscape and our internal capabilities and systems and process readiness, they weren’t able to happen,” Young said. “Sometimes when you’re in charge of a brand, you look into the future or around the corner, you have ideas, but the technology isn’t there yet.”

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