Marketer Interview: Heineken’s Bohemia Beer Prepares Launch of Frida Kahlo Packaging in U.S.

Although Bohemia beer has been around in the U.S. market for decades, it has traditionally kept a very low marketing profile. Not anymore. The Heineken-owned Mexican brand is expected to announce this week that it has partnered with the Frida Kahlo estate to launch a Limited Edition Frida Kahlo-themed Bohemia packaging in the U.S. featuring the iconic, world renowned Mexican painter.

In preparation for Thursday’s official launch, Bohemia beer’s VP of Marketing Félix Palau spoke to Portada about the push and why Heineken now wants to position the brand among U.S. upscale, sophisticated beer drinkers. A Monterrey native and self-described beer- marketing fan, Palau arrived in the U.S. two years ago to spearhead brand efforts for Tecate, Tecate Light, Bohemia and Carta Blanca beers. An edited transcript follows:

Portada: What is Bohemia’s current distribution strategy?

Félix Palau: “We currently distribute Bohemia mainly in markets –and outlets- with high concentration of U.S. Hispanics. Markets such as California, Texas and New Mexico are very important to us, since you have Hispanics making up 30 percent, and sometimes even 50 percent, of the total population.”

Portada: What about going beyond the Hispanic market? Do you think Bohemia has a potential in the so-called general market?

Félix Palau: “We think Bohemia has the credentials to enter the general market. But we want to go after a niche consumer; one who is looking for an alternative to other beers. Bohemia is actually a very interesting case, because the brand is perceived as one that doesn’t sound Mexican; that its production follows a process similar to those of European brands. And it is actually true: Bohemia is made by hops that are imported from Czechoslovakia; and as far as I know it is the only Mexican beer with these characteristics.

In a nutshell: Bohemia is a different type of Mexican beer. It’s a blond beer with substance.”

Portada: But Bohemia has been around in the U.S. since the 70’s why market it now?

Félix Palau: “We did some research and realized the brand has a huge potential to do the cross-over (to the general market) and that it can clearly differentiate itself from other brands. Bohemia is also priced between 30 to 35 percent above the domestic brands, which makes it a super premium beer, and that is where we want to keep it. We don’t want Bohemia to be massive; we want to position it as an emerging, upscale beer.”

Portada: Why associate Bohemia with Frida Kahlo?

Félix Palau: “The most important question a brand has to ask itself is: Which is the strategically-correct association? With Tecate, for example, we’ve decided to associate the brand with boxing, because boxing is a sport that represents the values of the brand: It is a masculine brand that celebrates the character of men. With Bohemia we followed the same exercise, and asked ourselves: What is Bohemia? We saw it is a “bohemian” brand, one often associated with art and an open mind.

During our research, we discovered with the Kahlo family that Frida Kahlo herself was a fan of Bohemia (see picture).

Credit: Frida Kalho Corporation

Credit: Frida Kalho Corporation

In addition, we were shocked to find the incredible awareness around the “Frida Kahlo” brand, and not only among Hispanics.”

Portada: Do you plan to launch a more massive campaign for Bohemia?

Félix Palau: “We’re laying the groundwork in 2011 with the Kahlo packaging. After that we plan to launch a new label for the overall brand, and perhaps moving towards a communication campaign (digital, social media and radio) for 2012. But we want to be very careful and keep the brand as an upscale one.”


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