Refilwe Maluleke

The Brain behind SA’s most loved brand

Refilwe Maluleke Marketing Manager Hansa Pilsener

Hansa Pilsener Marketing Manager, Refilwe Maluleke, at the tender age of 30, holds the title of youngest Marketing Manager in the history of South African Breweries (SAB). As Marketing Manager for Hansa, Refilwe is responsible for developing all communication for the brand, including TV, radio, print, outdoor and digital media.

Donald Makhafola talks to her about her job as the brain behind the South Africa’s biggest and most well-loved brand.

What do you like most about marketing?

That marketing is, in essence, about understanding people – their needs, wants, what makes them laugh or cry and what is important to them. You need to know all of this so you can connect with them effectively.

What fascinates you most about the Hansa brand?

Hansa Pilsener Marketing Manager, Refilwe Maluleke, at the tender age of 30, holds the title of youngest Marketing Manager in the history of South African Breweries (SAB).

Hansa is a beer brand with a big purpose. This is unusual as most beer brands focus on fun and frivolity and I find that having a meaningful purpose inspires me in my role. Hansa aims to inspire South Africans to achieve their dreams and then celebrate their success.

Since you have been appointed as the marketing manager for Hansa, what can you say has been your biggest challenge? 

The landscape of South Africa is constantly evolving. Consumers don’t stagnate and you need to evolve alongside them, whilst understanding that their wants and needs are changing. We need to stay relevant as these consumers have ever-increasing opinions about their environment and world events.

Hansa has been repackaged, is that part of marketing or repositioning it?

Repositioning is part of marketing. Hansa has always been the premium beer within the mainstream market and we wanted our packaging to live up to that promise and speak to it. With the new packing, we are the only brand which has foil on the 750ml bottle, adding to its premium look and feel. This is ultimately the pack that most consumers are drinking, so we have listened to that and responded by investing in making it look attractive so that these drinkers enjoy the same quality experience as someone drinking the 330ml.

Hansa has changed from being a dull brand and is now known as quite a vibrant brand. Was this party of your marketing strategy when you came in?

When I joined the brand team in 2010, the Vuyo campaign had done great things in building our association with dreamers – people who have dreams and work hard to realise them. But we needed something to reinvigorate the brand and this is why we now celebrate real dreamers rather than fictional ones. Our brand is still about dreamers but we have found a more authentic way of marketing it, which is great.

How do you think this positioning has impacted on its consumers?

The new approach has resonated strongly with consumers. There is something really inspiring about seeing the stories of real people who have worked hard to accomplish their dreams. Our consumer research has shown that the new campaigns have really inspired Hansa drinkers and shown them that, with enough self-belief, you can achieve your goals.

What do you think about alcohol brands using celebrities as ambassadors or to represent their brands?

I think that, as long as the celebrity you are using is a good fit and relevant to the message you want to transmit, it can be very powerful. It can, however, be risky as celebrities are also ordinary people and prone to making mistakes – look at Tiger Woods, for example. Most importantly, a brand’s response in such a difficult time also tells people something, and helps them to bond them with your brand. It isn’t a fit for Hansa as we focus on celebrating ordinary people.

What has inspired you to create the Hansa Dreamers campaign and what was its purpose?

Our brand purpose is to inspire South Africans to pursue their dreams. And what better way to communicate this than to tell the stories of people who have done exactly that. Hansa also wanted to help entreprenuersentrepreneurs to grow their businesses by giving them free advertising and PR that they would not have been able to afford.

How do you differentiate Hansa beer from other mainstream beers or competitors?

From a product point of view, Hansa is brewed with the world’s most expensive commercially-grown hop, the Saaz hop, which makes it different from other mainstream beers. This gives it its crisper, more refreshing taste that our consumers love.

How do you keep the Hansa brand relevant in the changing market?

We need to stay abreast of changes happenings in our consumers’ lives. One of the biggest challenges in SA at the moment is the problem of unemployment so, now more than ever, it is important to inspire people to create their own opportunities.

What is your future plan for the Hansa brand?

The big future plan for Hansa is to find new and exciting ways to emotionally connect with consumers and we have plans to do exactly this. The Cheers to the Dreamers and the new packaging relaunch are the first steps in a journey to connect with consumers on a new level, and we are launching an exciting campaign in July.