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Heineken Experience

BRC reimagines Amsterdam attraction

BRC Imagination Arts’ overhaul of the Heineken Experience in Amsterdam, which reopened at the tail end of last year, celebrates the beer’s Dutch heritage and global reach using a variety of storytelling techniques. The result is a visitor attraction that leaves guests feeling good and thirsty for more.

“Consumers are bombarded with thousands of fragmented media messages each day,” notes BRC Europe managing director, Bart Dohmen. “The ability to cut through this and create an attraction that truly immerses guests in a brand is invaluable.”

Before the revamp, the Heineken Experience pulled in around 350,000 guests a year, now it can cater for up to 450,000. Like the hugely popular Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, it has become one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions, but unlike the Guinness exhibit, it has a lot more competition, and a less central position. “For this reason, we had to try and make it even better than the Storehouse,” explains Dohmen.

Originally opened in 2001, the Heineken Experience replaced a brewery tour that, while popular with drinkers (almost too popular with drinkers), failed to convey much about the brand other than its intoxicating qualities.

Now visitors learn three things about Heineken thanks to the following characteristics identified by BRC: “Born in Amsterdam, Raised by the world …Cheers!” While this is never explained to guests in so many words, the theme is apparent throughout the attraction.

Separated by a canal from Heineken’s global headquarters, on Amsterdam’s Stadhouderskade, the new-look Experience is no longer part of a fully-functioning brewery, but several features have been incorporated to give guests a direct link to the brewing process, and the place where it all began. In the lobby, for instance, white tiled walls give the impression that this is still a working plant, and above their heads the floorboards have been stripped back to the reveal the gleaming copper bottoms of the remaining brewing equipment upstairs, which is used for a number of demonstrations.

To create the new-look Experience, BRC used various state of the art technologies, yet employed them in such a way that the finished result is elegant and easy to understand. At various points in the tour, guests see, smell, touch and taste everything involved in the brewing process, including of course an ice-cold beer.

But before they get their first taste, guests must first be “brewed” themselves inside Brew U, a stand-up simulator ride (by Bosch Rexroth) that explains a trip through the bottling process. The first beer is served inside the futuristic Star Bar, where Heineken’s red star motif and corporate colours are exploited to their full potential. Here, as in earlier section of the tour, a member of staff explains exactly why the beer tastes the way it does, and the perfect way to drink it.

“It’s actually a very simple way of explaining things,” says Dohmen, “but it works because guests interact with a human being and remember the facts better than if they just read it on the wall or screen. It probably makes them appreciate the beer better too!”

A popular feature is the Heineken Gallery, where visitors can relive over 140 years of advertising, and look for the subtle details that make these messages so memorable. There’s also a nod to various Heineken sponsorships, such as films and football.

At the end of the tour, there’s an opportunity to enjoy one final beer in the World Bar, surrounded by 360-degree moving images of aspirational cities such as Hong Kong, Paris and Rio de Janeiro. A large selection of Heineken merchandise is available in the shop, and one item in particular is already proving a great seller. Earlier on, guests can order a 330ml bottle of Heineken with their own name on as part of Bottle Your Own Heineken. It’s the only “secondary spend” opportunity inside the main part of the attraction, but a well thought addition that is driving strong sales.

While the Heineken Experience was not set up primarily as a revenue stream, the Dutch brewer has succeeded in encouraging the public to pay up to €15.00 a time to engage with its brand. Cheers!

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