Sean O’Donnell, Marketing Director of DB Breweries, discusses how this Missionary challenger brand has fuelled cars, protected the country’s beaches and inspired a generation to think differently.

How did the brand begin?
DB Export was first created in the 1960s by our founder, Morton
Coutts. He was a scientist and brewer who established 12 patents
and invented the process of continuous fermentation. His focus on
innovation lives on to this day in our brand philosophy of turning ‘can
do’ into ‘done’. Over recent years we’ve done some iconic campaigns
and focused on what modern-day New Zealanders want from a beer
brand. That’s why we’ve aligned ourselves closely to sustainability.

So Morton Coutts is a real person rather than a constructed
brand narrative?
Oh yes, he really was quite an incredible guy. At the age of 12 he built
an X-ray machine and he x-rayed his cat. A couple of years later he sent
the first long-wave radio signal across the equator, and at the tender
age of 15 years old he took over the brewery.

It’s his courageous, inventive and philanthropic spirit that drives our
missionary brand thinking and values. Many Kiwis love to get together
for a beer and discuss inventive ideas, but the next morning they’re
mostly forgotten as people go about their daily lives. We believe
in celebrating great ideas and making them a reality.

How are these brand values represented in product design?
DB Export is a mainstream beer but most beers in New Zealand
are in amber bottles. DB Export is packaged in a flint bottle and
our labelling process is more modern, so we constantly challenge
the category status quo. We were the first beer brand in New Zealand
to launch a low-carb beer variant, and the first to launch a zero
percent flavoured variety.

Tell us about Brewtroleum.
We believe that innovative ideas around sustainability will lead to
a better New Zealand and, ultimately, a better world. Brewtroleum
came about because each year we produce about 600,000 litres
of natural beer waste. In the past we would give it away to local
farmers but now we partner with a biofuel company which uses
it to create a more sustainable petrol for cars and trucks.

It was really the inaugural idea from our ‘ideas to save the entire world’
campaign. At first, consumers were like, ‘Is this real?’ So we proved
it by partnering with Gull, opening Brewtroleum petrol stations across
New Zealand and actually selling the fuel. Consumers really embraced
it. All they had to do was change their beer brand and they could help
create a biofuel that was making a real difference.

What is DB Export’s media strategy?
We follow our parent company Heineken’s framework, which
starts with breakthrough content and features a strong presence
and guaranteed reach for everything we do. For each campaign,
we look at owned, earned and paid media in slightly different ways.

For Brewtroleum, it was all about earned media. We knew that if we
invested in the fuel, and distributed it through Gull petrol stations, the
power of PR, digital and social would provide the presence and reach.
When we launched DB Export Citrus, however, we focused more on
paid media. Our TV and OOH paid media, along with social partners such as BuzzFeed, Outbrain and Mashable, reinforced the creative
campaign ideas and scaled the desired reach.

How do you follow something like Brewtroleum?
Well, our sequel was Beer Bottle Sand, and we knew it had to
be something special. What had really shocked us was finding out
that huge quantities of sand from many of the country’s amazing
beaches were being dredged for use in construction, pharmaceutical
and computer chip products. Through our sustainability work we also
discovered that a quarter of NZ’s beer bottles weren’t being recycled
by consumers properly.

So, we decided to combine the issues by creating a sand substitute
from crushed bottle glass, which could replace the beach sand used
by construction, golf courses and other businesses. It really captured
the public’s imagination about the role sustainable beer brands can
have in society.

How has the ‘Save the Entire World’ campaign developed since?
We’ve now gone out to New Zealand consumers to ask for their great
ideas. We’ve had more than 2,000 submissions, ranging from using
the CO2 from our kegs to inflate tyres to other uses for recycled bottle
glass, such as housing insulation. It has been amazing to see how
creative our consumers are, along with the vision they have for
making New Zealand a more sustainable place to live.

Our role is to help make these ideas happen. We don’t want to own
the ideas, we want to use our Missionary brand status to help facilitate
them. In the year ahead we hope to bring some of these ideas to life
and showcase them to New Zealand and the world.

What advice would you give to other brands with a transparent
sense of Purpose, out to challenge the category status quo?
Be bold in your thinking, stay the course, work with like-minded
partners and don’t compromise on your ideals.