Interview of Laurent Delmouly, Marketing Director Athenian Brewery

Consumers push us to create new futures!

Laurent Delmouly, Marketing Director Athenian Brewery, talks to adbusiness about the trends driving the Greek Beer & Cider market, the company brand portfolio and its communication & digital strategy.


Athenian Brewery has a wide portfolio; what is the recipe of success?

Success is depending on our capacity to put consumers at the center. We constantly and carefully listen to consumers and as a result we are becoming a multi-category company, offering global and local beer brands, low and no alcohol beer propositions, ciders and water. 

We have a plan, but we respond to change in the first place. Consumers push us to create new futures, sometimes they know what they want before us, so when we develop a new product, it is like co-creation between us and the final users!

How do you explain the importance of the Greek brands in the beer market?

One of the trend which has dramatically changed our category is indeed the exponential growth of the demand for Greek brands. During the crisis, there was a natural tendency for consumers to favor products from Greece, we called this movement ‘Greekness’. It was a way for consumers to express their solidarity with their national economy, and looking at our own business it has been a booster for Alfa®.

We see now another change – across categories – which is a shift from Greekness to Localism.

To make most of this insight, we have developed a range of Greek local craft brands, Mamos® and Nymfi®.

Can you elaborate on these 2 brands?

Mamos® and Nymfi® symbolize the consumer need for meaningful brands having a singular identity and a great taste. The Greek stamp is not sufficient, consumers want craft products emanating from local communities. 

Mamos® is a very special brand in our portfolio, it belongs to the Mamos Family with whom we have partnered in 2017 to resurrect this local jewel. Can you imagine our pride to support the Mamos Family in bringing back to life the beer produced in Patras by the first certified Greek brewer as of 1876 ! We collaborate very closely with the Mamos Family and the success of Mamos®, a delicious aromatic pilsner brewed solely in Patras with Greek barley and 3 hops, is the result of a fruitful teamwork based on passion and mutual respect. 

With Nymfi®, an original craft brand deeply rooted in Thessaloniki, we want to further leverage the new paradigm of localism. Nymfi® is a lager with character, exclusively brewed in Thessaloniki with 5 hops and barley from Macedonia. We have co-created the brand with locals who proposed the name, the mermaid symbol and the design. It is a tribute to their city!

So you see Craft as a long-lasting trend in the Greek market?

Definitely, and by the way this is not specific to Greece. The craft wave has started in the US and is now becoming a global trend, making the beer category alluring and delightful. The fastest growing craft proposition is India Pale Ale (IPA) and we have just introduced our own proposition, Amstel Kargo®, a sessionable IPA that we are listing in a selection of trendy bars. 

Another sub-category which is gaining momentum is Low & No Alcohol (LNA), why?

This is again a global trend. Consumers are more health conscious; they want to control their alcohol and calories intake. But they want it all: even if it is with little or without alcohol, the taste experience has to be enjoyable, hence our focus on the product quality, the communication around it and the massive sampling to change the taste perception of LNA which has not always been favorable. Best example is Heineken 0.0®, a delicious alcohol free lager that we have successfully introduced in Greece and which is a huge success at global scale, because everywhere consumers are praising its superior taste.

Consumers have quite a choice when it comes to LNA, can you give us an overview?

To make the LNA category exciting in Greece, we have developed a full range: Amstel Free® is the pioneer and leader, and we have just launched Amstel Free Lemon®, an indulgent extension mixing Amstel Free® with natural lemon juice. Another winning proposition is Amstel Radler 2%®, a low alcohol treat with natural lemon juice. Last, Alfa Choris® has been launched in 2018 and Heineken 0.0® is the highlight of this year. 

Interesting to note that communication around non-alcoholic brands has become very inspirational compared to the past, transcending usual functional needs like practicing sport, driving or being pregnant.

Athenian Brewery is also promoting Cider, can you share the status?

Cider is a new category in Greece. With MiloKleftis® and Strongbow® we propose a portfolio made of global and local propositions. Like beer, cider is a natural and refreshing alcoholic beverage, but as it is made of apples, it offers a sweet taste experience popular notably among urban female drinkers. 

We are still in a phase of consumer education, explaining basics like: cider is natural, is made from the fermented juice of apples, has 4,5 degrees of alcohol, can be served over ice for ultimate refreshment. We also recently aired short TV commercials to point out some cider consumption occasions. 

And what about your Premium Portfolio?

Premium in general has been under pressure over the last years but stays very relevant. Best example is Fischer® which keeps growing. Ultimately, the equation is quite simple: when a beer brand combines a superior taste and an unprecedented identity, consumers give it thumbs-up.

Our flagship stays Heineken®. The brand offers unique experiences through platforms like UEFA Champion’s League or Summer Music Festivals, but also via innovation with lifestyle and top-notch quality products like Heineken 0.0®.

Last but not least, Sol®, a refreshing lager that is very popular especially during the high season (summer).


You had many successes in communication, why is it important?

We indeed got with all our brands a lot of prestigious awards over the last 3 years, including the Grand Effie 2018 with Alfa®. It is always special to have a campaign over-performing the creative work of all brands across all categories, because beyond the recognition from professionals, this shows that we have managed to reach out people beyond our core target audience.

Doing commerce and building brands in the digital age requires stamina, the challenge of grabbing consumers’ attention and drive brand preference is a long-term endeavor, and creativity is the vital sinews. 

This is why I keep saying that to shape loved brands, you need to be passionate, not quiet!

What is your strategy regarding digital and social media?

First of all, digital disruption is not just a buzzword. The way we interact with consumers has changed massively with the rise of social media and we had to adjust as a company.

We have started by bringing new talents in house, to upgrade our capabilities and to embrace change at a faster pace. Then we have re-engineered the way we build brands, in terms of creative content but also media mix. 

To give a number, we have multiplied by 5 our digital investments in 3 years, shifting a significant part of our budget from traditional to on-line media.

Do you see the booming of digital as an opportunity?

The good news with digital communication is that we can measure everything and tailor made our messages. Athenian Brewery will further move towards iDDM (Individualized Data Driven Marketing) through platforms like Facebook or Google, increasing our expenditure in Programmatic to optimize our reach and cost-effectiveness. 

In a mobile-first world, the more a brand can emit a personalized and relevant message, the better. To strengthen its equity or to increase consumer engagement and purchase intent.

So no significant drawbacks on your side?

The flip side of the coin is that we have to produce many more assets to deploy a campaign. As an example in 2019, our very first Mamos campaign is purely digital and on top of the YouTube hero video, we had to create more than 20 satellite digital assets to display the campaign on social media! For us and our partners it’s definitely more complexity, but for consumers it’s a better fit.

Would you say the audience is more difficult to reach than ever?

The new reality is that the consumer journey is no longer linear. Consumers are using a very diverse set of tools to access content: smartphone, tablet, laptop, desktop, (pay)TV, even A.I. assistants. The only way to capture and keep their attention is to implement an omni-channel communication plan covering all the critical touchpoints.

This is what we are doing in 2019 with our new Amstel campaign ‘Sti Kardia’, featuring real barley producers. Consumers will see our farmers on national TV, on regional TV-billboards-press, on social media and even on packaging!

Big creative ideas have to travel across the lines, if not the risk for brands is to miss part of their target audience.