I get a lot of press releases and see a lot of stories about new people in positions at a variety of booze businesses, and most of them... eh, so what? This one was an exception, and not because it's a major company unit -- Heineken USA -- but because of the way the people formerly in the position were willing to say why they left, rather than simply "to pursue other opportunities." Check it out, then go back and re-read my post about imported beer. This is from the Wall Street Journal. (I've cut a bit from the piece; this is just the nuggets.)
Dutch beer giant Heineken NV tapped company insider Dolf van den Brink as the third chief executive in about three years to run its struggling U.S. division. Mr. van Den Brink, currently commercial director and deputy general manager for Heineken's operating company in the Democratic Republic of Congo, will become president and CEO of Heineken USA effective Thursday. He succeeds Don Blaustein, who resigned in August, citing differences with the company's management in Amsterdam about how to run the unit.They tap the deputy from the Congo to run the U.S.? Wow.
Mr. van Den Brink will try to revive U.S. sales of the company's flagship beer, Heineken, which have dropped sharply amid the weak economy, ineffective marketing campaigns and tough competition from rival imports and domestic brews. Mr. van Den Brink faces a tall order. In April, Heineken said its beer volume fell 16% in the Americas on an organic basis, which strips out results from recently acquired brands, in the first three months of 2009. Heineken USA accounts for about 4% of the U.S. beer market in terms of volume.
Mr. Blaustein's predecessor, Andy Thomas, also resigned because he disagreed with Heineken's top executives over strategy.
I would love to know what the different outlooks on strategy are. Here's a suggestion on a US strategy: figure out what you're selling, then get Heineken ads that are as good as the "World's Most Interesting Man" Dos Equis ads are (which are actually working, by the way: Dos Equis is doing well). I like John Turturro, but good God..."No destination is the destination of the undestinated... This is not a beer. This is a compass."
What the hell is that shit? If you don't even know what your beer is -- here's a hint; it ain't a compass, you buy them at REI -- what are we supposed to get out of it? What's the most interesting man in the world say? "I don't always drink beer, but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis." Notice: he drinks beer, not a compass, and he admits that there are other drinks, and that he doesn't always drink Dos Equis. I think that's the best part of the commercial.
I'd also point out to craft beer fellow travelers that even after losing that volume, Heineken USA, by itself, does the same volume as all craft beers put together. Food for thought, mobsters.