Designing the club of tomorrow

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Heineken: A brand with a passion for design

Over the last years, Heineken has invested a lot in showing their passion for design to strengthen the link between the brand and design. In 2011, the „aluminum bottle‟ – being served in exclusive bars and clubs around the globe – won a design prize during the Cannes Lions. In the same year, Heineken decided to go one step further by kicking-off a global design project,

connecting club goers and designers in the development of a visionary nightclub. The ultimate goal of this project was to design and develop a concept club that would enhance the whole

nightlife experience.

Key to the idea was that the pop-up club should not be created by Heineken‟s in-house design team alone, but in

co-creation with emerging design

talent from the same age group as the current generation of clubbers. Therefore, „Open Design Explorations Edition 1: The Club‟ crowd-sourced

What to expect?

young designers from four global design capitals (New York, Tokyo, Milan and Sao Paulo) by inviting them to submit their portfolio via Heineken‟s Facebook page. Live portfolio presentation events in these four design cities resulted in the final selection and composition of the design team: 19 emerging product, graphic, fashion, interior and motion designers. Heineken‟s senior design team and a crew of established designers with fame functioned as coaches for the young talents.

The Heineken concept club community

So far, Heineken brought the ingredients together that would lead to a beautifully designed night club. The real question was if all created concepts would be as relevant to the clubbers. The project team at Heineken understood that in order to develop a relevant and impactful take on club design, understanding the


and wishes of clubbers today would be crucial. That‟s the reason why, during the selection process of the young designers, Heineken and InSites Consulting were conducting a

global research project with club goers to provide the design team with relevant and true consumer understanding, acting as a briefing, a source of inspiration and a springboard for ideation

Engaging a group of young, trendy clubbers from all around the world to participate in research can be quite a challenge and although the club of the future is an inspirational topic, the selection and execution of the research methodology needs careful attention. We opted for an online research community (MROC) of three weeks with 120 participants for various reasons:


A longitudinal piece of online qualitative research was the way forward as it makes it possible


The current generation of youngsters (Generation Y) are ‘digital natives’. The web is


Today’s youngsters are used to being empowered by their parents and they start to expect that

to conduct a global project, in which clubbers need to be „followed‟ over a longer period of time, in a rather cost and time efficient way.

their second home. Talking to and working together with other people in the online space feels very natural to them. Next to that, the asynchronous connection in a community allows participants to join the online discussion on the time and location of their choice, perfectly fitting the lifestyle of today‟s younger generations.

from brands as well. Our online research community connected the trendy clubbers with an aspirational brand and facilitated the co-creation of a night club, a place that is part of their daily life. We worked together with people who were interested to participate and who could inspire us with interesting stories: design-savvy youngsters, living in one of the 12 trendiest cities on the planet (10 citizens of each city), going to a club at least one time a week and being a non-rejecter of the beer category in general and Heineken in specific. The participants were recruited through a snowballing process, which started on Heineken‟s brand page on Facebook.

In order to keep the community participants engaged over the course of three weeks we took them on a journey (Schillewaert, De Ruyck, Van Kesteren, Ludwig, 2010).

In four different rooms on the community platform they could share ‘their current clubbing experiences’ and ‘the role of clubbing in their routine’, ‘their view on the ideal nightlife journey’ and ‘give feedback on the first sketches’ of the designers. The tasks presented to them were a mix of questions, writing reviews, keeping a (photo) diary and holding discussion battles. To develop a holistic view on the needs of clubbers, a movie metaphor was guiding the participants through the different weeks – from selecting the actors in the ideal nightlife journey, to the scenery and the scenario for the perfect night out.

Reporting research results for maximal impact

The three-week dialogue with clubbers resulted in over 2,000 comments,

providing a unique view on the meaning of clubbing in their lives. In order to report the outcome towards the designers in the most impactful way - a report that they would actually read and use during the creative process - we went beyond the traditional ways of reporting.The analysis of the discussions resulted in the shaping of 28

key learnings, each linking a challenge for the design team to the needs of their audience. „Service design thinking‟ inspired the integration of these learnings – spread over six

touch points – in a ‘consumer journey map‟: “A „customer journey map‟ provides a vivid but structured visualization of a service user‟s experience.

The touch points where users interact with the service are often used in order to construct a journey – an engaging story based upon their experience. This story details there service interactions and accompanying emotions in a highly accessible manner” (Stickdorn, Schneider 2011).

This „Nightlife Journey‟ was reported as an


infographic (available at, not only accessible on desktops, but developed in HTML5 with specific attention to iPad usage. The app guides the designers through the six

phases of a

night out: from „pre-club drinks and meeting-up‟, „entering the club‟, „going for a drink‟, „dancing‟, „chilling‟ to „going home‟ (figure 2), telling the designers about what the role was of a specific scene in the overall night, what the clubbers‟ expectations were in that specific moment; and emphasizing the frictions clubbers encounter during their journey. To make the learning experience as engaging as possible for the designers, the 28

key learnings were formulated as consumer

quotes. Next to this, for each learning a design action was indicated under the actual insight.

From inspiration to co-creation

The „consumer

journey map’ was shared with the designers during a club tour of nightlife hotspots in the design cities, taking their observations of the clubbing environment and social interaction beyond the obvious. The immersion in the clubbing scene, combined with the knowledge of the consumer learnings, inspired the team to come up with consumer centered ideas that truly challenged the current nightlife experience.

In this phase, designers received specialist coaching from famous senior designers within their discipline. After the immersion in the clubbing scene and the kick-off briefing,

designers and coaches joined the clubbers and the Heineken team on the online community platform, where they could spark ideas and share first sketches with each other (figure 3). In this way, the project took full advantage of the characteristics of the online community platform; providing a 24/7 connection to stakeholders from all over the world for a longer period of time, supporting true co-creation.

The end result: The concept club at the Milan design week

The interactive consumer journey map did not only serve as a briefing and a source of inspiration, the

research also proved to be crucial for the senior designers in making the final selection of ideas to be part of the actual club. By taking the journey of clubbers as a starting point, the Heineken Concept Club – showcased at the Milan Design Week 2012 – successfully took the design critics by surprise. From the lay-out of the club, based on the six phases of the consumer journey map, to the shelves where clubbers can leave their drink while dancing, the whole experience is designed to provide relevant and impactful answers to the needs of clubbers. While most clubs currently focus on their entertainment value, the clubbers in the community reminded the design team that going out is also about hospitality:

The fashion designers transformed the staff and dressed them in other-worldly outfits matching the identity of the club and radiating positive energy. The hosts provide guests with a warm welcome, the waiters wander around instigating playful dares to get them out of their shells and when it‟s time to move on, a friendly concierge guides clubbers onwards, giving directions and arranging cabs home.

“To have a fun night out in the club, we really need to feel welcome. To start the night with a great vibe, I’m in need for a warm, fun and exciting atmosphere. The staff has an important role in making my night enjoyable!”

Tap a bottle-shaped icon on the interactive bar surface and pulsing, concentric circles attract the server’s attention and tell him that you have priority over the guy next to you. When your beer is served, the bar man taps the icon to explode it, showing that the order has been fulfilled. By connecting with emerging designers, taking inspiration from the nightlife journey of clubbers and approaching club design as the service of the ideal nightlife experience, Heineken

Even the simple act of ordering a beer has been creatively deconstructed and carefully considered, anticipating the need of clubbers to draw the attention of the bar man: “I often feel like the bar man is ignoring me while I obviously try to get his attention, I hate this!”

pushed the boundaries and unveiled a visionary pop-up club, housing nine consumer relevant design concepts and product innovations. The stimulating and progressive environment was designed to trigger the senses of the audience and facilitate social interaction; it proved to be an exceptionally welcoming, memorable and conversational night out.

A 360° evaluation of the project

Evaluation of the pop-up club by Milan clubbers The day after enjoying this new clubbing experience, visitors of the club during the Milan Design Week were invited for an online interview. Recruitment for this interview happened via Twitter and the database of people invited to the opening. We selected 24 club goers for the interviews: 16 males and eight

females. At the core of the interview were three basic exercises: write a review, give the club a score, and select and rank your favourite design objects that were showcased in the club. Overall, the club got a report figure of almost 9/10 and was seen as a surprising and innovative action of Heineken. Moreover, the concept club was perceived as a different and more entertaining experience than in a regular club. Almost all reviews mentioned the link between Heineken as a brand and „design‟. The interactive bar and the friendliness of the club personnel were also mentioned a lot spontaneously. The Top 5 Design Concepts, according to the visitors, were: the interactive bar, the special editions of the award-winning „aluminium bottle‟ in which the beer was served, the staff‟s clothing, the exit and the taxi service delivered by the concierge, next to the entrance of the club – which was giving the clubbers already a glimpse of the vibes inside. The ideas behind all of these concepts were inspired by and shaped based upon the consumer learnings we showcased in the „interactive journey map‟.

Evaluation of the project by the community participants

In the post-community evaluation survey, the members gave the project a score of 8/10. For them, it was a pleasant experience that made them have impact on the future of a part of their life: going out and clubbing. They really appreciate the fact that Heineken is a brand that listens to consumers. Also based on their qualitative feedback, we may state that the project indirectly created 120 trendy and influential brand ambassadors for life.

Evaluation of the project by the designers In-depth interviews with the 19 emerging designers emphasized the connection between the interactive infographic and the end result. At the beginning of

Mark Van Itterson, Head of Global Design at Heineken, formulated it this way:

mainly excited about their collaboration with Heineken and the goal of developing a visionary nightclub. The design briefs – based on the

“The community was our online hub, a kind of virtual creative lab. It was bridging all continents and time zones, stimulating cross fertilization. It kept the creative juices flowing through new progress, new insights, new briefs”.

their creative process they were

phases and insights of the „customer journey map‟ – proved to be a critical success factor in structuring

Most designers perceived the community phase as the most valuable part, as the answers they the process and facilitating the collaboration.

generated to consumer needs in this initial phase were key to the end result. The origami concept that arose here served as a red thread in the design vision and was applied to all elements in the club.

Heineken‟s „Open Design Explorations‟ also changed how the emerging designers perceived the concepts of „co-creation‟ and „consumer research‟. They are now convinced that

consumer understanding is essential in their design process and is a major source of inspiration.

The after party: going beyond the boundaries of research

For every great party, there is building up the tension towards the night out, the party itself and a great after-party. The same structure was used in the three staged PR approach Heineken used to spread the word about this project:


the announcement of the project on the Facebook page and communication about the progress of the project via press releases. All were well picked-up by a wide range of influential design blog and the traditional press.


as a warm-up for the opening of the club in Milan, Heineken also communicated about the

learnings of the research community with clubbers. The „interactive journey map‟, together with sketches from the designers based on the consumer input, was shared with the press and the whole world (via social media).


during and after the opening of „The Club‟, Twitter and (design) blogs played an important role in spreading the

word about Heineken’s concept club.

Business impact of the project

1. The afterlife of the club The pop-up club will now travel around the world.

Clubbers from

trendy cities will be able to enjoy this new nightlife experience. Next to that, some of the most well perceived design object will be produced and serve as „branded utility‟ provided to owners of trendy clubs and bars by Heineken.

2. Impact on the brand The online interviews among visitors of the concept club indicate that the whole

of the project makes that the brand is being seen as more ‘original’ and ‘unique’, ‘cosmopolitan’, ‘innovative’, ‘self-confident’ and ‘a brand to be seen with’ than before – a rather unique brand image for a beer, among these young, trendy and influential people. They were surprised by the fact that Heineken did this project, but it was perceived as a great idea, a cool project and a very relevant end result. To conclude, four out of five visitors stated that they have a better perception of the Heineken brand now.

3. Online conversations and PR By analyzing the online conversations on the project in the period February 11th 2012 to May 11th 2012, we learn that Heineken’s presence at the Milan

Design Week strengthened its ties with the design world from within the creative scene. Heineken „Open Design Explorations‟ was featured in 127 articles, mainly posted on specialty blogs focusing on one of the project‟s design disciplines. In the defined period, the project generated 1,595 conversations on Twitter, with a boost of 214 tweets on the third party night (April 19th 2012). These conversations show a highly positive sentiment and are connecting values like „uniqueness‟, „fun‟ and „surprise‟ to the Heineken brand. The highly targeted and content-led design campaign proved to drive market and media engagement, resulting in rich global coverage, sparking positive conversations and elevating Heineken‟s reputation in open design innovation.

4. Implications for the market research profession how important it is that also creative professions lean on consumer insights in order to become more successful in what they do. It also shows that we as market researchers need to become more creative in the way we bring research results and insights towards our clients and their stakeholders, in order to This case study demonstrates

become more impactful with what we do and to make sure that research results are really used. We can learn from „management consultants‟ here in terms of

connecting the dots and reporting in a clear and very actionable way. „Advertising creatives‟, on the other hand, can inspire us to package our message in a more engaging and fun to use way. The „interactive journey map‟ app showcased both aspects to a large extent. And finally, why would we be silent about co-creation and collaboration with consumers? Why not communicate about the fact that we do it, the learnings we gather from it and the final results; if it can have a positive effect on the (perceived) consumer relevance of your products and services and the image of your brand?

Want to know more about Online Research Communities?

Tom De Ruyck Head of Research Communities +32 9 269 14 07