Go Places: HEINEKEN and Cloudfactory show employer branding at its best

HEINEKEN and Cloudfactory tell us about their Go Places campaign and the interactive film they have created to wow future employees


HEINEKEN’s new global employer brand campaign, Go Places, is an engaging interactive experience aimed at wowing potential talent with the essence and spirit of the company.

Starring real HEINEKEN employees and created by Amsterdam-based creative studio Cloudfactory, viewers get an authentic view of the company’s unique and adventurous personality, as well as the rich world of opportunities across its 70 markets and 250 brands.

We spoke to Gianluca Di Tondo, senior director, global Heineken brand, and Sandrine Huijgen, creative partner at Cloudfactory, to find out more about the campaign.

Sandrine and GianlucaFrom left: Sandrine Huijgen and Gianluca Di Tondo

Tell us more about the Go Places campaign

Gianluca Di Tondo: Go Places is a unique online HR initiative that allows users to go through a series of interactive questions to discover their profile, where their strengths lie and to find out if they have what it takes to work at HEINEKEN! The video features actual HEINEKEN employees which gives it our very own personal touch and an insight into our company.

We know that employers need to go further to appeal to a generation of millennials who are looking for brands to show they are connected to the things they care about. HEINEKEN’s aim with the ‘Go Places’ campaign is to expose candidates to its unique working culture and diverse job opportunities. One of the most compelling reasons to work at HEINEKEN is the people. They make HEINEKEN’s unique culture possible.

The market is full of generic employer campaigns which do not really show millennials the company’s character. With ‘Go Places’ we have taken a brave step forward to pioneer in the field on employer branding and recruitment by showcasing, with full transparency, our culture and our very personal point of view on the talent that we are looking for.

‘Go Places’ is edgy, bold and unique, and our expectation is that talent that gets in touch and interacts with it will be in a position to decide themselves if HEINEKEN is a company for them or not. In the end, our objective is not to increase the volume of applications, but rather to increase the quality and the percentage of applicants who are a good match for us.

How did you conjure up the idea?

GT: Everyone is aware of how much social media use has increased among millennials, particularly in the last five years. At HEINEKEN, as a business, to maintain the very best new talent, we need to speak to millennials in a unique and inspiring way to show we are connected to their core values and how they consume media. The ‘Go Places’ campaign was created because the best way to connect with millennials is to join them in the place where they are spending more of their time and where they feel most comfortable – on these social platforms.

Sandrine Huijgen: We had two sources of inspiration: Freddy Heineken and Dr Seuss!

We believe in serendipity. The first day we started to work on the big idea for Go Places, we stumbled upon an article in a Dutch magazine about Freddy Heineken. The subject was how Freddy recruited his top talents. He had an interesting final interview process that’s quite different from what we know in the corporate world today.

Here is how he went about it: he invited the candidate and his wife for dinner. As they settled themselves comfortably in front of a Heineken, Freddy would get a ‘call’ from the HR department saying that they needed an important document from the candidate and he had to be ushered immediately to the office. This was a staged call allowing Freddy ample time to have a good conversation with the wife, learning so much more about the candidate than he ever could have from the candidate himself.

Why did he do that? Because Freddy knew that even though someone might have the right skills and experience, personality mattered just as much. Freddy wanted managers who could handle difficult situations in different countries around the world and needed them to have the right personality for that.

It would be romanticising our creative process to say we had our idea right there and then. But Freddy’s method gave us the inspiration of making employee personality a very important part of the idea. We thought having a different and fresh way to look at an interview, while showing the company culture and the kind of people who do well at HEINEKEN, would be very interesting.

We were also inspired by Dr. Seuss’s children’s story ‘Oh! The Places You’ll Go!’ We used a similar poetic and rhythmic playfulness and translated it to the HEINEKEN company culture.

Then we worked on capturing the personality needed to succeed at HEINEKEN. We interviewed diverse people throughout the company who are successful throughout various stages of their career path, and have what we called 'green blood'. We then regularly checked back with them on our idea to see if they recognised the company in it.

We collaborated very closely with the director Lennart Verstegen (Wefilm) to develop The Interview script, the art direction and humour we wanted to represent HEINEKEN. We involved him way up front as the project was so different than a typical ad. It took us six months to prepare prior to the shoot and we involved unusual collaborators along the way, such as Michael Diederich, a stand-up comedian to fine tune the questionnaire and bring a rhythmic quality to the manifesto, and Saskia den Hollander, the cider team assistant who became our casting director for HEINEKEN employees in the film. We had to have real employees of the films for the company to recognise itself and give the authenticity we were seeking.

Finally, in the entire 18-month process, we collaborated closely with a small team of HR and marketing people, Alfonso Aunon, Dario Gargiulo and Gianluca di Tondo.

What does employer branding mean to you?

GT: Employer branding is important because it enables us to show potential employees a clear sense of who we are as company, what our culture is, why we're different and what makes us unique and special. We believe in the power of HEINEKEN as a whole, not as a compilation of isolated pieces. We are proud brewers with a passion for building brands, and that is reflected in our culture and company values.

SH: To me, the HEINEKEN company is like a big family. There is a strong sense of history and many larger than life personalities like Freddy’s of course, but also other people who work there. I worked at HEINEKEN for seven years myself. I left because I wanted to be a creative, but in a way, I never left. I still work on exciting projects and brands for HEINEKEN and I am glad because it is a very special company where you make friends, have the freedom to try out new things and you feel part of a family.

Go Places

Why did you decide to invest in such an engaging employer branding campaign?

GT: The company has gone through a massive transformation in the last 10 years. From a geographical point of view, it’s been about affirming a truly global footprint, but we have also transformed from a brand portfolio point of view. Over the last decade, we've acquired some additional companies and therefore become even more diverse. Our culture has become richer, whilst still remaining founded in strong roots. We feel like it was the right moment to present ourselves.

What do you hope to achieve from this campaign?

GT: We hope that by demonstrating HEINEKEN’s innovative approach to attracting talent, we will recruit the brightest and the best new faces into the HEINEKEN family. We know that millennials are looking for more than just a job and a faceless company. What’s important to them is different to what was perhaps important to the previous generation. We need to be aware of this and evolve as a company to ensure we have the best environment, the best jobs and the best people.

Relegating the search for talent to a dusty corner of a corporation website is not enough to attract the pioneers of the future. With ‘Go Places’ we aim to make the job market more premium by offering candidates a unique experience, where they can learn a little bit more about themselves, which consequently helps them in their job seeking journey. Some will make it into HEINEKEN and some will not, but everyone will get something positive out of it.

SH: From a creative perspective, we wanted to show that HEINEKEN is a very special company that does not do things like other big multinationals. I used the word ‘show’ because at HEINEKEN actions mean more than words and entrepreneurship is very much valued. Seeing HR people like Alfonso and Chris making bold decisions on making such a campaign demonstrates that.

What kind of people work for HEINEKEN?

GT: We look at ourselves as pioneers. At HEINEKEN the entrepreneurial spirit is everywhere. It's one of the things that define us. By joining us, you know that your career will always be largely in your own hands; that you'll have to make important decisions no matter where you sit in the organisation - and you should always be ready to be a bit adventurous if you want to travel the world.

SH: A wonderful mix of people from different cultures and nationalities but the ones who thrive the most are the ones with a certain mindset: a sense of adventure combined with great sociability.

What challenges did you face in creating this campaign?

GT: Every new project has its challenges, whether small or big. I think the main challenge for us with ‘Go Places’ actually lies ahead of us. It will be getting people to switch from the traditional, protracted interview process and embark on a new, exciting social challenge that prioritises evaluating a sense of adventure, creativity, wit and charm, over graduate grades and spreadsheet skills.

SH: There were quite a few challenges!

We had to create something that had not really been done before - we could not find any other examples of an employer brand initiative that we found inspiring creatively. It was a long and arduous path but also a very exciting opportunity for a small creative studio like us.

We also worked with the HR team who is not used to working on advertising campaigns. But they took bold decisions to do a very fresh and unusual campaign and worked very collaboratively with the HEINEKEN brand team, who is of course expert in leading innovative campaigns.

And finally we knew that Go Places is not just a recruitment campaign but a starting point for HEINEKEN to talk about itself as a company.

Looking back I am very impressed that we had the creative freedom to do what we did!

In what ways are you promoting the campaign?

GT: The campaign is active in 18 countries and available in 12 languages. Each HEINEKEN market will use the campaign to invite new, young talent for real job interviews. Each market will also promote the campaign online and on social channels, placing strong emphasis on LinkedIn, as the main social tool for them to connect with us at HEINEKEN.

Why is it important for companies to invest in their employer brand?

GT: It is important as it allows them to clearly position themselves and to showcase what the company is made of and what makes them different. At HEINEKEN, we believe this investment in the employer brand will attract a diverse group of individuals within millennials. Our diversity of people, brands, and international footprint attract a varied pool of unique talent – all willing to break new ground together.

What advice can you offer other companies looking to build their employer brand?

GT: This is not a normal advertising campaign or a marketing programme. To be successful, first of all you need to find a creative partner that really knows you as a company and is open and willing to co-create the campaign together. Coupled with joining forces with global countries and HR, marketing and creative, to ensure that we get the best out of everyone and develop a campaign that is relevant locally. Secondly, you need to find a creative idea that embodies who you are. Finally, you should always be fully honest to really let people ‘feel’ what makes you special beyond the company name.

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