For the past six years, Heineken has enlisted 100 culture and fashion influencers across the country to quietly hawk beer. Well, kind of.
Each year, the brand works with fashion designers to create products like sunglasses and canvas totes that subtly promote Heineken. Those products are then seeded out to 100 entrepreneurs, retailers and influencers in the country.
Today, the beer brand launches the 2015 version of the program in New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago and Miami with a new group of influencers. And, for the first time, the program also includes Heineken-sponsored city guidebooks with recommendations from those influencers.
For example, Roma Cohen, who owns a boutique store in Miami called Alchemist, points locals to Bodega South Beach as one of his favorite taquerias in the city. In Los Angeles, Chris Gibbs, owner of apparel retailer Union, recommends breakfast restaurant John O'Groats. Throughout the books, Heineken's logo and bottles are printed next to the editorial content.
The 5-by-7-inch books are made by Highsnobiety—a fashion news website—and will be distributed for free via retailers and at Heineken-hosted events in the five cities.
Curating local recommendations is nothing new, but in the age of digital upstarts like Thrillist and UrbanDaddy, the move to print is an interesting twist on influencer marketing.
"There's various brands and media companies out there that have their own version of a city guide—we think what's different about this version is you have some of the most influential, in-the-know insiders who are the source for the guide," said Quinn Kilbury, senior brand director at Heineken. "It's a city guide, but through a different lens—it's more [about] the things you may not know about."
In addition to the books, Team Epiphany—Heineken's agency behind the campaign—is helping the brand work with designers to make clothing and home goods that will be given out for free to all 100 influencers in this year's program.
According to Kilbury, all of the products are designed with subtle Heineken branding—like an accent of the brand's green and red colors.
"In the future, you may see us pushing the product out there a little bit, but right now, I think we're adding value to a pretty small number of people," he said. "It's more about getting into the cultural center of the city than it is about advertising."