Heineken’s @WhereNext service provided users with real-time recommendations about places and venues that were trending in their cities. The service targeted Millennial males and was powered by a complex algorithm that weighted real-time engagements on Twitter, Foursquare, and Instagram. This campaign received worldwide PR and helped shift the Heineken brand from the beverage sector into the tech and social innovation space.
Objective and Context:
To build on its successful “Open Your City” messaging, Heineken launched the @WhereNext service to tell its consumers about places and venues that were trending in real time on a global scale. The campaign analyzed social interactions to provide Heineken’s male Millennial target audience with recommendations on where to go next for a good time. The mobile-first service used the Twitter handle @WhereNext to provide customized advice to on-the-go users. Revenue was driven by seamlessly integrating Heineken, pubs, and bars into the service.
The target audience was 21 to 26 year-old guys who live in major cities. Heineken characterizes these gentlemen as “Men of the World.” However, insights pointed to the fact that these guys can be creatures of habit and found it hard to get off their beaten tracks and explore their own cities. The brand’s solution therefore had to be both mobile and social, built into existing platforms, and couldn’t invent any new behaviors. Rather, Heineken had to show its audience all that was available to them in their own cities. With @WhereNext on their mobile device, “FOMO” (Fear of Missing Out) was a thing of the past.
The campaign ran in fifteen major cities around the world. The service was activated in the social space, in bars, and in local press as part of a wider PR push around Heineken’s Open Cities platform. Both the campaign and the service embodied the same behavior: taking people off their beaten tracks and opening up new possibilities for them. Heineken timed its advertorial content-specific ads to specific cities in local press, just as the service was influencing and shaping users’ nights and they were sharing their experiences in the social space.
Overall Campaign Execution:
The @WhereNext tool gave consumers real-time recommendations of where to go using an algorithm that listened to social media activity in order to analyze which locations are trending. Users could tweet “@WhereNext” plus their location and the service would produce recommendations. The need for accuracy was vital. As a result, the “trending window” was about an hour, after which time Heineken considered the data no longer accurate and reprocessed it.
The data challenge in the service was to identify, at a global scale, in the world’s major cities, where to go to have a good time. This was an enormous task for even the most committed research team. So Heineken effectively outsourced the work to users of social media, without ever explicitly requiring anyone to input data for it. As a result, the service was consistently able to discover new venues, popups, and parties, which it may never have found via traditional sources.
To pull this off, Heineken needed to identify relevant data sources and evaluate their relative value in terms of accuracy of location, timeliness, and context. Heineken created a set of social data consumers — including Foursquare, Instagram and Twitter — which constantly ingested fresh data. Twitter’s fire hose was filtered by geolocation, and subsequently still had to sample it down to account for the overwhelming volume. The algorithm took around 5 percent of global tweets. Instagram’s API was filtered by a set of defined geo-boundaries for the world’s major cities. Foursquare’s API was progressively searched using geo-data extracted from the other sources to build a location database.
Using a number of prototypes, Heineken was able to create an algorithm which weighted each data source according to its geographic accuracy, proximity to a nightlife venue, nearby social activity, and the “depth” of the interaction itself. Tweets were considered shallow content, but came in very high volumes. Instagram photos were a deep interaction, sometimes explicitly identifying the tone of a social scene and a venue identifier. Foursquare provided the most accurate location information. The algorithm combined all this information to create a quality, balanced output which reflected real-time activity.
The @WhereNext service wasn’t an Android or iPhone app; rather, it seamlessly integrated with Twitter, so that platform’s users were just one tweet away from finding out where to go next. It worked in multiple languages and was available globally. As an alternative to Twitter, Heineken also designed and developed a real-time heat map on a mobile responsive website.
The campaign received worldwide press coverage and acclaim, from GQ magazine to the Huffington Post and AdWeek. There have been over 14,000 U.S. visits to the service since launch, and @WhereNext has received 13,060 mentions on social media since launch with an 80 percent positive sentiment. On top of that, @WhereNext achieved its secondary objective: to shift the Heineken brand from the beverage sector into the tech and social innovation space.
Heineken saw compelling behavior in Germany where half (49.3 percent, according to Google Analytics) of the service’s 28,314 visits were made by returning users, each spending almost three minutes on average engaging with the site. And Chile saw 71,685 users in Oct/Nov 2014, of which 35.9 percent were return visits. This told Heineken it was providing much needed, accurate and timely information, something no other publisher or recommendation service has been able to provide.