Published On: October 25, 2023By

A lot of marketing mavens talk about how important core values are to a brand, but few are willing to really lean into those values in meaningful ways.

Heineken recently showed us how it’s done with The Social Swap, an initiative that asked prominent male and female soccer commentators (Gary Neville and Jill Scott) to secretly swap Twitter (X) accounts for a day. The result was an eye-opening look at how gender bias and sexism is on open display every day online.

Two sports casters meet over a beer. Overlayed text explains that Jill Scott and Gary Neville swapped Twitter accounts.

I love this kind of campaign because it shows us a massive global brand that’s willing to live their values. A great many companies would probably never consider such a campaign. Having been in countless corporate strategy sessions, I know how quickly good ideas can be shot down by the merest whiff of risk. It’s hard to chart a course that might upset a portion of your customer base. Companies don’t like to use marketing to lose business, after all.

I understand being risk averse, but I’d argue that this campaign actually presented a low level of risk.

Here’s why. Campaigns like this need to start with research. Who are your core customers? What do they believe? Which of those beliefs define who they are?

If the majority of your customers look at themselves as progressive and tolerant, and if they object to the unfairness of this sort of blatant sexism, then it’s probably a safe strategy to support those feelings. By running this campaign, Heineken is loudly saying: “This kind of behaviour is not acceptable. We think our customers will agree with us.”

Jill Scott and Gary Neville recounting their results.

Even though recent years have seen a dramatic increase in aggressively intolerant views being posted in public, it’s really hard to expect misogynists to gain public favour by attacking Heineken for this campaign. And if the brand did receive blowback, it’s easy to defend yourself when you’re on the side of fairness and gender equality.

The big bonus with this campaign is how terrific the people who agree with you will feel when they buy a case of Heineken before the next game.

Well done, lads and lasses! Play on!

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