News & Views

Desperados / Augmented Edition

by Sophia Epstein

Picture this: You’re marketing to an age group that values experiences over products, but rules and regulations dictate that your brand can’t sponsor any cultural or sporting events or even include people in its advertising. In France, you won’t see alcohol advertised on TV (unless it’s below 1.2%ABV). You might see a poster on the Metro, or a banner online, but even then, all you’ll see is the bottle. 

Heineken-owned beer brand Desperados is now ‘the most preferred alcohol brand for French young adults,’ according to the brand’s marketing manager Clémentine Doumenc. But, without beer-swilling bromances or alcohol-touting athletes to fill its ad campaigns, the brand needed to think of something else to keep the millennials engaged. So, every year it changes its packaging.

In partnership with a group of artists called the 9ème Concept and agency MNSTR in Paris, all the bottles of Desperados in France get a special edition label. ‘It’s not risky, it’s audacious,’ says Doumenc. ‘We want our consumers to be a little bit disturbed, that’s part of the experience. It could seem risky, if they don’t like it, but we are talking about art so it doesn’t matter if you like it or not, it’s about feeling something.’

This year is the 19th rebrand the packaging has had, but this time the label uses Augmented Reality. ‘They wanted an experience,’ says MNSTR creative director Louis Bonichon, ‘something the customer could go deeper into.’

The augmented art was made digitally. Street artist and sculptor Matthieu Dagorn trained for two months with a Tilt Brush so he could construct the artwork with nothing but a VR Headset and a couple of hand controls (which is much harder than it looks). When customers scan the label using the Desperados app, they can watch the virtual sculpture unfold around them, visit Dagorn’s workshop and explore the intricate details of the piece.

‘This is the kind of thing young people expect from brands, they’re fed up of classic advertising,’ says Doumenc. ‘When you see that half your target audience has an ad blocker on their PC, you know they don’t want to be interrupted by a brand. So, we have to get their interest differently.’

It’s too early to know if it’s working, as the bottles are being rolled out through to October. But Doumenc says that 20 years ago, when Desperados partnership with the 9ème Concept began, the brand had only just established the ‘modern beer category’. Now, 19 special edition labels later, the brand is the fifth-ranked beer on the French market. ‘It’s not easy to tell if it’s directly linked to the limited edition,’ she says. But it certainly seems like they’ve found a good way to get some attention.