Ard Bossema – Grolsch

Ard Bossema – Grolsch

Ard Bossema is CMO at Royal Grolsch, one of the leading Dutch beer companies which is part of Asahi Group Holding. He is responsible for the marketing, innovation, and strategy departments.

Drivers for growth

According to Ard, their main driver for growth is relevance. Ard: “You have to stay relevant as a brand. When it comes to Grolsch, we are one of a kind. A brand that has been around for over 400 years, must have done something right to stay relevant for all those years. Being relevant in the minds and hearts of people, is and will continue to be our greatest challenge. Grolsch is a brand that has continued to choose their own path, and my team and I want to make sure we stay relevant for the next 400 years. However, you must keep up with the times; the changing media consumption, the more critical consumer. At the same time, you need to stay true to your own path. Discover the new, and keep hold of the good (In Dutch: Ontdek het nieuwe, en behoud het goede). These days, it’s extremely difficult to stay relevant in a world where brands come and go at a rapid pace.”

The role of creative

“Grolsch is the brand many people associate with craftsmanship”, Ard continues. “Creating things has always been a part of our brand. For us, creativity means following your own path. We realise that Grolsch is not everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s our strength. Grolsch is a choice, because it’s a beer with character. Which is what we want to reflect in our creatives. We often show people choosing their own path and enjoying life and a beer in a peculiar way. The role of creation is making sure all your touchpoints are set-up in the most creative way possible, they should stand out and be relevant at the same time. That’s the friction; you need to be distinctive, yet relevant. They are two polarising dimensions, but if you can get them right, it will lead to successful creatives.”

Being consistent also plays an important role: “In the past, we noticed there were too many different messages in our communication. All those changing messages just let to confusion for the consumer, so it was hard for them to really understand what Grolsch stands for. For the large group of consumers, consistency is crucial. Creation plays an important part in this. If done right, creation can contribute to long term brand equity.”

Creative process

Ard explains their creative process: “As a team, we define the strategic task, which should eleborate what we want to do with the brand. Based on that, we brainstorm and think about how we want to shape that. For creative inspiration, we have a process in place. The customary thing to say would be coming up with a brilliant idea when you least expect it. But we make time to come up with new ideas. Together with our agencies and consumers we work on creation, which can be anything from communication to activation. We test our concepts and communication so we can optimise and learn how we can improve. When something works, we always want to try it out at least one more time. Most people have the tendency to think in calendar years; ‘we need a different plan next year’. But most consumers don’t know what you have done the year before, because you haven’t reached everyone. For instance, with Pathé we have an annual movie ticket promotion, where people can get the second ticket for free when buying Grolsch in the supermarket. And we notice people asking us when we will be doing it again. There are a lot of things that turn out to be successful, so there’s no harm in optimising it, and using it once more.”

Tasting is believing & Movie’s Explained

Ard: “Next to that, I’m an advocate for ‘tasting is believing’, so last year we started a sample programme to let 800.000 people taste – in our opinion – the best Radler and 0.0% of the Netherlands. We don’t have the budget to heavily support it in the media, so we let people taste it instead. And the programme hasn’t ended yet, because we haven’t given everyone a can yet. We might need to optimise the programme, but we’re not going to bin it just because the calendar year has finished.”

Grolsch also works together with broadcasters to come up with new creatives. Ard: “Grolsch is inextricably linked to film, so last year we started working together with Veronica. This year, it has led to a joint programme: Movie’s Explained. It is based on the insight that we want people to look at film in a different way, by giving people intel on the film, which you can then watch on Veronica. We want to engage with the audience in a way that Voetbal International reaches their audience. The programme is also linked to online search behaviour, people want to know how films are made, how stunts are performed. This all led to this concept where we are not telling people how our beer is made, but we are claiming a domain – in this instance movies – and creating relevant stories for that target group. Whilst subtlety showing that Grolsch is a part of it.”

Creative pitfalls

According to Ard, the biggest pitfall of creation is not being open minded. “Something I often notice, and have caught myself doing, is when you are working towards an outcome which you know the other person will like. For instance, I’m the one who makes the decisions, and my team knows that I like emotion in communication. In my opinion, communication should have an impact on consumers. But that’s just my personal opinion. Because people know which elements I like, they sometimes work towards that. Because I’m not open minded, or because they know what the boss will like. And that’s terrible. To stop people from falling into this trap, I make them, and myself, reflect on what is happening. You must return to the briefing and look at what the goal was in the first place, and whether you are still on track to reach that goal. At the start of every project, most people are very fact-based. This is the goal; this is the message. But at some point, it turns from facts, to opinion. And you’re no longer open-minded.”

“Lastly, you sometimes have to follow your gut in order to create successful creatives. You shouldn’t just trust on data alone. Experience and gut feeling is something data can’t replicate. Which is something I feel we should never forget as marketers.”