Heineken’s Global Head of Design on its Bottle Design Challenge: Q&A

Posted on by Patty Odell

Heineken is celebrating its 140th year in business with a host of events, experiences, gift packs and a design challenge. The challenge puts on display hundreds of historic visuals for participants to remix a bottle and design that will be brought to market at the end of the year. Last year, the first time Heineken ran the challenge, 30,000 entries were received from over 100 countries.

Mark van Iterson, global head of design at Heineken, takes us behind the scenes.

CHIEF MARKETER: How would you describe the evolution of the Heineken bottle design over the last 140 years?
VAN ITERSON: It’s the evolution of a timeless classic icon, with, of course, some important breakthroughs. The biggest one is probably being the first brand to make its bottle green to stand out from all the other beer brands’ bottles that were always brown. The introduction of the red star logo and the specific Heineken wordmark with the ‘smiling e’s are other key moments. The most recent step finalizes the process towards one global icon: the proud star bottle with embossed neck and back and transparent label.

CM: How many designs are available for entrants to play with?
VAN ITERSON: We opened up 250 images and designs from our archives. And entrants can, of course, work with anything additional that they have or discover from Heineken’s history.

CM: How did you decide which images you would include?
VAN ITERSON: We selected what we think is a representative overview in terms of the time they come from, the types of applications used to create them and styles. And of course some of the most beautiful, special ones.

CM: Who can enter?
VAN ITERSON: Anyone can enter; anyone who has a strong idea and can visualize it has an equal chance of winning. Heineken is at home all around the globe and people all around the world can enter—the brief on Facebook is available in seven languages. We know that young designers, and those studying at art and design colleges, find the challenge especially rewarding as it offers the chance for them to really make a name for themselves. The top 30 entries will be showcased at Milan Design Week (April 2013), a world-leading design event, and the winner will see their design made and distributed across the globe. (Watch Heineken's "Your Future Bottle Challenge" judge and digital design pioneer Joshua Davis take on the Remix)

CM: What is the goal of the challenge?
VAN ITERSON: The goal is twofold. For us at Heineken it is fantastic to get ideas and designs that we didn’t think of ourselves. This unlocks huge creativity, and certainly will bring surprises, excitement and very fresh concepts. For a progressive brand like Heineken, always striving to innovate, improve and find fresh ideas, this is a great source.

CM: What will you do with all the data you collect from registrations?
VAN ITERSON: The data is just collected to be able to contact the shortlisted people, to make formal agreements with them. Finally we must and will always ensure that we don’t target nor involve people under legal drinking age.

CM: How will you market/advertise the bottle design that is created by the design winner?
VAN ITERSON: The winning bottle design will really be produced. It will go to market at the end of 2013, early 2014. Last year’s winners, Rodolfo Kusulas and Lee Dunford, appeared in local media. In their home countries, Mexico and Australia, their creative achievement really gave them a lot of visibility. Of course we will again promote this year’s winner in the media, at point of sale and on store shelves. We will also be guided by the final design, and what kind of further creative hooks it has to build on. (Watch the promotional YouTube video).

CM: What other promotions/marketing do you have planned for the 140th anniversary celebrations?
VAN ITERSON: During December 2012 and early January 2013 we had our interactive bottle wall in front of the Heineken Experience in Amsterdam. Made out of 5,000 Heineken bottles, each lit up through individual LEDs, it worked like a huge TV screen on which people from all over the world could post their celebration messages. The Limited Edition 140th anniversary gift pack containing bottles featuring stories from episodes of the brand is being sold in many markets, supported by our 140 Years Young messaging. We will also be holding live celebrations in honor of our anniversary across various countries. For example, in Paris we have a celebration on March 1, kicking off a special collaboration with music label Ed Banger Records. It will be a great evening of musical entertainment with unique limited-edition bottles and cans of Heineken.

CM: As a designer/marketer working in a very competitive category, what keeps you up at night?
VAN ITERSON: Finding the next breakthrough that shakes up the category and that brings even more enjoyment to the people who want to have a good time with a beer after a day of hard work.


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