AMSTERDAM: Heineken, the brewing group, is making increased use of consumer insights and social media to engage and educate its target audience.

Speaking to INSEAD, Cees van Lede, chairman of Heineken's supervisory board, argued it was vital for the company to monitor evolving expectations regarding the "experience" of drinking beer.

"You really have to have an intimate knowledge of the social and drinking habits of the younger generation," van Lede said.

Among the trends observed in the recent past are the declining popularity of bitter flavours, growing numbers of "ice cold" beers and the frequent preference to drink from bottles rather than a glass.

While established research tools such as face-to-face interaction remain relevant, social media is also now playing an important role in gathering insights and information, he added.

Similarly, services like Facebook and YouTube are occupying an increasingly central position when it comes to advertising.

"You see ... a shift in advertising to social media. Quite a substantial shift," said van Lede.

"I'm not saying that we are abandoning television, but you do see that we are going that way. Because that's where ... today's generation spend their time."

Communicating via these platforms can also help balance commercial concerns with encouraging responsible drinking through supporting educational programmes and spreading useful information.

"Heineken's always said to itself, and to its customers, if we are not seen as a respectable company, and a responsible company, in the end we will run into a problem," van Lede said.

More broadly, van Lede suggested the make-up of some in-house units should reflect the relatively low age profile of Heineken's core consumer.

"Your age pyramid within the company, particularly those who are in touch with the market and with publicity, should be fairly young," he said.

Data sourced from INSEAD; additional content by Warc staff