Heineken Ireland is aiming to capture 10 per cent of the stout market through Island's Edge, which will be extended to bars and pubs across the Republic this week as a high-visibility marketing campaign gets under way.
The drinks company, which already sells Beamish and Murphy’s, has conceived Island’s Edge as a stout for people who don’t like stout – or think they don’t like stout – and is using more modern branding than would typically be associated with the category.
"It is a traditional market and that is why we decided to enter it, because we felt there is an opportunity to rejuvenate it," said Paula Conlon, marketing manager for Island's Edge.
The drink was soft-launched in 300 Dublin venues in July and has been available in supermarkets and off-licences since last month.
“The sales performance has been quite strong in the first eight weeks,” said Ms Conlon, who is “confident” that the brand can reach at least a 10 per cent share of Irish stout sales by recruiting new customers to the category.
Heineken Ireland marked the official launch in a style that has not been seen in Dublin for some time: an in-person event, with speedboats ferrying dozens of invitees to Poolbeg marina at the "edge" of the city on Friday evening for a night of music, food and drinking.
“This brand has been ready to be born for quite some time now,” Ms Conlon said.
The supporting television campaign – created by the agency Havas, directed by Richard Chaney and produced by Piranha Bar – will run on both TV and on video-on-demand until the end of 2021 as Heineken "invests heavily" in its bid to convert young drinkers to stout.
“It will be in line with what we would have done with [cider brand] Orchard Thieves,” said Ms Conlon of the marketing spend, declining to put a figure on it.
The market, if it can be cracked, is sizeable: stout accounts for about 30 per cent of long-alcoholic drink (LAD) sales, which were estimated by Nielsen to be €743 million in the Republic of Ireland in 2019.
Heineken Ireland, which employs 330 people, did “more testing than usual” to develop Island’s Edge, with head brewer PJ Tierney introducing tea to the process to reduce bitterness and increase the sense of refreshment, while a hint of basil adds to the coolness.
Heineken’s research suggests the main barrier to stout for non-stout drinkers is the perception that the drink is too heavy.
Its ambitions for Island's Edge will be backed by social, out-of-home, print and geo-targeted digital marketing, with media buying arranged by Red Star, part of the Dentsu group, and the launch event organised by PR agency Thinkhouse and No Sleep Club.
While Heineken is “still operating in a Covid world”, Ms Conlon said ahead of the open-air launch event in the docklands, which featured a performance by Dublin rapper Nealo, it was “exciting to be the first brand to put something on”.