“He lives vicariously through himself.”

“The police often question him just because they find him interesting.”

And he can drive an expensive imported beer brand to double-digit sales gains during a recession that’s forced many of its competitors into steep declines.

He is the “Most Interesting Man in the World,” the 60-something Connery-meets-Castro-meets-Hemingway character created by ad agency Euro RSCG to sell Heineken USA’s Dos Equis brand.

Through mid-June, a period when imported beer sales dropped 11%, sales of Dos Equis rose more than 17%, moving the brand into eighth place among imports (in a tie with Stella Artois), when shipments rose 13%.

That success prompted Heineken executives, who had been running the ads since 2007 in a few stronghold markets for the brand, to take the message national this spring.

“There’s never really been an import brand that’s been built so clearly through advertising,” said Benj Steinman, publisher of Beer Marketer’s Insights.

Equally unprecedented is the campaign’s reliance on two things rarely seen — actively shunned, even — in beer ads: a gray-haired protagonist, played in the Dos Equis ads by veteran TV actor Jonathan Goldsmith, who in every ad acknowledges that he doesn’t always drink beer.

But to hear the people behind the campaign tell it, there was really no other way to effectively attack the 2006 brief, which challenged the agency to “establish a distinctive, desirable and premium identity as evidenced by significant growth of key brand-tracking measures,” which would, in turn, be “different from other brands,” a “cool brand” and be “worth paying more for.”

They came up with a character who has spent his life, according to the grainy images in the spots, engaging in swordplay, leading mysterious expeditions, reeling in large sailfish and arm wrestling soldiers. The images are provided without context or explanation, which is the point.

“Drinkers want to be seen by their friends, and by ladies, as interesting.”

That’s seldom clearer than it is online, where the Most Interesting Man hosts a Most Interesting Academy, in which he delivers various life lessons and opines for an avid Facebook following of about 58,000 fans (the brand has an additional 114,000 fans on its own page) who seem to hang on his every word.

Consider that, on July 8, he advised his Facebook followers: “Every now and then, bite off more than you can chew.” Within an hour, 965 people had blessed the comment with an approving “likes this,” and 110 more had taken the time to write out their own responses, many of which were attempts at similar pearls of wisdom. Likewise, on the Dos Equis’ website, which he dominates, visitors spend an average of 7.42 minutes per visit, according to Google Analytics.

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5 thoughts on ““He lives vicariously through himself.”

  1. I am ahead of my time and beyond my age or gender… I am always biting off more than I can chew.  :)I also very much want to be the person that lives vicariously through herself.  Think I’m going to put that one in the brain file to be repeated frequently.

  2. sorry it took so long to get back to you on this…checked with friends in the agency and the competition…yes it worked very well…they have tried dozens of strategies and this one seems to have clicked with their proposed target as well as younger audiences who may never have considered the brand…as my beer client says the real test is has it moved product…the answer is yes…@matthew633 – 

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