Interview with Mark Van Iterson, Global Head of Design & Concept

By: Gil Haddi - Oct 9, 2015
References: heineken & linkedin
As the Global Head of Design & Concept Development at Heineken, Mark van Iterson is responsible for continuously coming up with new concepts that directly impact the way Heineken is positioned in the market and how consumers interact with the brand. His innovations span across different fields including design, logos, merchandising, event styling and retail all the way down to the way the beer is presented to consumers in bars.

Before he worked for Heineken as part of the brand, Mark worked 13 years in a creative agency, working with different types of brands on their strategy, style, marketing and more. He started working with Heineken on the agency side and then was invited to join the team.

"The beauty of Heineken is that creativity is so central to the brand. We're always on the forefront of what's happening, continuously looking for new ways to engage with consumers, new technologies and new ideas. We are always forward-looking which means there are always new challenges, but we're always progressing and there's never a dull moment."

3 Questions with Mark Van Iterson:


The Heineken TALENT LAB initiative started when we were awarded Creative Marketer of the Year, which was a great honor. Instead of resting on our laurels and looking back at the awards we won, we chose to continue building on that success and push ourselves to spread creativity all over the world.

We wanted to work with young talented people from emerging countries, because it is important to stimulate young creatives - they are the richest source of inspiration! From Bulgaria, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Greece and Vietnam, our marketers preselected 8 winning talents from each country to be submitted into the program. None of these countries have ever received a Cannes Gold Lion before, making this a ground-breaking initiative. We got copywriters, animators, digital artists, and many more types of talent and creativity because we wanted real cross fertilization and real fresh content to emerge from these young minds. We eventually narrowed it down to two best contestants per country and asked them to create a 90 second film clip of who they were, what they've been doing and what individual talent they can bring to our challenge.

Last year's theme was Vision of the Future, the year before it was about Night Life and this year, we are proud to present the theme of Moderation. It was great fun, we worked with an extremely diverse team and it was a full week of pressure cooker creativity. From Monday morning until Friday evening, the week was full of interviewing bartenders in some of Amsterdam's most iconic bars, meeting the Night Mayor of Amsterdam, along with plenty of brainstorming sessions, benchmarking and much more. At the end of the week, it came down to the tangible presentation of 7 different conceptual routes. These are just sneak previews, not final proposals yet, however I'm honestly surprised by how well the chemistry worked between the challengers. It was amazing to see how these young people from all over the world, with vastly different cultural and creative backgrounds, worked together and got along so well. Many good ideas have emerged.

2. What is the importance of this year's theme of moderation?

Moderation is really a long term thing. We're really looking to change people's behavior and make moderation cool. It's going to take a long time, but we see a need for moderation as a global issue that truly resonates with the Heineken brand. If you drink moderately, beer is actually a healthy product that is also fun and part of a positive social interaction in society. We actually don't want our consumers to drink too much because, while that may seem like something that would benefit a brand that sells beer, it will backfire in the long term, creating negative association and leading to an increase of restrictions down the line. However, we don't want to take a negative approach when we discuss moderation. Instead of warning against overdrinking, we want to take the positive route and make moderation cool and sexy. In Italy, it is actually shameful if you drink too much and get drunk, cool people enjoy their alcohol but exercise moderation. This is an approach that the Heineken consumer understands and therefore can appreciate. For our sophisticated consumer, it's about quality not quantity, and that's why the theme of moderation is a natural fit for Heineken as a more premium brand of beer.

3. HEINEKEN has a fantastic design pedigree, what are you most proud of?

I started here 10 years ago, and after three or four years, we actually introduced the iconic Heineken bottle that is all over the world today. More than anything else, this defines the iconicity of the brand and I am extremely proud of that. There are many restrictions when it comes to packaging beer and you have to work within the parameters of technology, cost and getting the product to market. To this day, creating the Heineken bottle design is one of my greatest achievements.

Looking forward I could see the global status of the Heineken brand being leveraged to successfully instil a spirit of change and the importance of moderation in the next generation. Truly making a difference in the world and impacting so many in such a positive way would be my utmost achievement.