This is the story of how CKSK and Heineken collaborated on a global marketing campaign with a difference. Rather than create the conventional digital and social campaign you might expect, we created the worlds first independent search engine - a digital product inspired by the Sol brand and its story of freedom to make the brand useful in the lives of its target consumer.

Sol Search assets


Sol was first brewed in Mexico in 1899, in the midst of the Mexican Revolution. This independent and ‘Free Spirited’ streak has remained with Sol to this day and is very much part of Sol’s DNA. It’s why Sol’s brand sign off is ‘Espiritu Libre’, but also why they carry that sense of being a free spirit in everything they do.

Customer: Can I have a Corona please?
Barman: We’re out of Corona do you want a Sol instead?
Customer: I guess so. “Sighs”

That sums up about a hundred slides of Powerpoint for you on the challenge facing the Heineken Global Brands team with the global re-launch and repositioning of the Sol brand following its purchase from the Montezuma brewing company - who had owned the brand for 200 years or so.

Sol has long been viewed as an inferior to the ultimate “Sunshine” beer Corona, and mounting a challenge to it is a steep task, but one we in CKSK zealously share with our partners on the Heineken Global brands team.

Immediately there is something meaty and powerful in a brand that is rooted in and inspired by revolution and struggle. The world of Sol is a million miles away from Spring Break and Tacos - we are dealing with a brand that is proud of its Mexican roots but holds aspirations to bring its ideals far beyond the borders of Mexico. Independence and Freedom are after all ideas that have no boundaries.”


We call him Hugo and he’s 35 years old which is an interesting consumer to target because he’s very different from the conventional twenty something beer drinker we normally speak to. Hugo is crying out for freedom and independence in his life. When you reach your mid 30’s theres a lot of pressure on you to conform from partners, children, peers and the media. At this stage of life relationships, mortgages, fatherhood and career bite and send you on a path towards the mainstream. The Sol beer mantra is to empower these Hugo’s all around the world with our sense of Espiritu Libre and keep the flame of independence alive in their lives.

In this maelstrom of a decade for men, a beer inspired by the ideals of independence in Mexico in 1899 has a clear role to play.


We looked at the digital space the Hugos operated in today and found a powerful point of tension. Despite the fact that the inventor of the internet, Sir Tim Berners Lee, set out an ambition detailing his hopes for a truly free and independent internet 26 years ago, what we actually found was an internet that was driving people towards the same mainstream choices. Google are doing it with their search results that are driven by the most popular answers to your search queries. Social media channels are inviting us to like or retweet the same homogeneous content from global brands.

But Imagine if you could cut the irrelevant from your Internet experience and essentially create your own, bespoke net, with Sol filtering content to your specifications. Now that could be interesting.

In fact the whole area of Search could benefit from an injection of independence. What if we could make Search more about Discovery?

Google is great but it also carries out 85% of all global searches! And results are ranked according to mass popularity and paid search, so not much room for individual choice there. But what happens if Hugo wants less mainstream answers, more independent options, ones that will surprise, intrigue and delight him?

Ben Hindmarch, Innovation Director recalls "I remember Stephen Pullen our CD talking to me about how he would often start at page ten of his search results and work his way back to the most popular on page one, thereby ensuring that he started with less mainstream and more random results".

He wondered how it might be possible to turn page ten into page one but in a more targeted way to provide utility to Hugo.

So we thought why not create the worlds first independent search engine that would encourage Hugo to discover a world beyond the ordinary."


Our objective was to distance Sol Search from Google and all other search engines; and get closer to the most current blogs, news websites and what the web has to offer as its best. So we looked for a more visual approach for our concept.

Images and comments should get as much attention as the address and any details. What’s different from other search engines is that Sol Search works based on what you and I think is best. As well as details that are the norm during online search, we also pull real images and people’s comments into its results, and that needed to be reflected in the design.

So our main objective was to combine this key feature of Sol Search with the brand look & feel, that although quite new and fresh is getting more globally established as the days go by. Our design builds on that brand identity whilst creating a look that is simple, confident, cool and most of all, functional.


Instead of looking at search engines, we concentrated on the end user. Who was Hugo and what does he need from it? Fortunately the target market for Sol has been identified incredibly precisely. Because of this, the search engine only needed to cater to this particular type of person.

The first task was to identify a number of search products that would be relevant to the site. We examined a number of options including film, music and even holidays. Eventually we settled on bars, restaurants and cafés as something our market would want to search for.

By now we were a lot closer to what we were going to do: a search engine that could find venues for a highly specific consumer group. The challenge was how to make something for this group that was different from alternatives like Trip Advisor, Yelp and even Google?”


We started to look at recommendation engines. These are pieces of software that would make recommendations based on user preferences. Amazon use one for creating lists of things it thinks you’d want to buy, Google use one to serve Adwords on websites.

We worked with Pertimatic in Amsterdam who were artificial intelligence researchers who had a product for making recommendations. CKSK worked with them to develop a system that would use ‘seed’ venues that we find in a city. A seed venue is somewhere we’ve identified that would be particularly appealing to the target market. Next step, the software looked for reviews of the seed venues and the people who wrote the reviews. Each reviewer was examined for other positive reviews they had left for other venues.

If the other venues were well received, they were noted as being relevant. To make sure the information is current, the system provides Instagram photos and Foursquare descriptions and reviews alongside the search results.

The final product we developed allows a visitor to the site to search for a type of venue. The results displayed are balanced for accuracy to the search term and relevancy to the target market. This unique blend is what gives Sol Search users more valuable results than mainstream competitors. Users on Sol Search can expect results that are highly personalised to them, but without having to hand over any of their personal data.”


“Sociologists tell us that subcultures define themselves through opposition to mainstream choices, and that’s an appropriate point of departure for thinking about Sol in general and Sol Search in particular. The idea that “we are not Google search” quickly took hold within the Sol Search team. Google search suffers from a number of problems that are inherent to any text-based search service. In order to use Google search successfully, there are three challenges to overcome:

(i) you need to know what you’re looking for, (ii) you need to be able to formulate that as a text query and (iii) you need to be able to refine that query to get the results you want.

We overcame these hurdles by focusing the search capability on cafes, bars and restaurants (for now). This provides the user with a context and contextualised problems are easier to solve. We also provided users with a view on other people’s searches and included curated content to allow discovery and inspiration.

However, to focus on text-input and search query formulation is only to look at half of the problem. If you think of search as an experience then you have to pay close attention to the results. Not only do you need to worry about the quality of the results but you have to pay attention to how these results are presented. With that established, the view I arrived at seems obvious, in retrospect: “Search + Results = Experience”. This central concept drove the work of the UX team from that point on.

In addition to being ad-free, we wanted to make our results visual and actionable in a way that Google’s results are not. Our results are presented as cards that provide information in short bursts and are actionable in several ways. If we have a phone number of the venue in the result, you can call them directly from the result card. You can go to the venue’s website, you can read their reviews on foursquare or you can have the venue open up as a location in your maps application and get directions. You can flip the card over and share your result to your social community or keep it to yourself or between you and a friend by emailing the result to yourself or someone else. The results can also be sorted by proximity. If the user agrees to a request, Sol Search takes your location data and, when you’re out and about, can tell you which of these great results is just around the corner.


Now, with the application taking shape it was time to tackle the challenge of making people aware of this innovative and useful product. We knew that this would pilot in London and Sao Paulo so getting cut through in some of the largest cities in the world was as essential as it was challenging. Because this was a digital product that had such clear functional benefits it made sense to use the advertising to demonstrate them in the most interesting and innovative way possible.

The focus of the product is the venues that were uncovered from the search engine, and we knew these would have huge value in enriching Hugo’s busy life in small ways, and this was really the insight for the communications brief. It was a no brainer to make the venues the focus of the ads, it would cut through marketing waffle and demonstrate the benefits in all the aesthetic beauty that came with interesting, independent, and artisan establishments.

All of the ads were conceived with this in mind. Interactive display and interactive out-of-home would allow potential users to search for venues near them, all directly through the ad units on screen.


From an early stage we knew that if we were to increase the reach of Sol Search and make it more credible we had to piggyback on the reputation of an existing publication.

After looking into various different publications such as GQ and Esquire it was agreed to go with Monocle Magazine. This was the client’s recommendation and pushed strongly by them due to an existing relationship and also a feeling that they were the perfect fit for Sol.

This was a great decision and really helped when asking venues to be on board and getting local markets to run Sol Search in 2015.

Monocle helped us source the 20 perfect London venues, which we could use as our seed venues in the algorithm. They also provided us with photography for the venues, copy for the site and ran an advertorial to tie into the launch of Sol Search in each city.

We also highlighted the venues they recommended in our display campaign.


It was fun to strip back the communication process to a real demonstration of the product in conventional media terms, and made this a compelling proposition for our target market.

Find Authentic Destinations with Sol Beer Search Engine.
Sol launches search engine for indie bars,cafes and more.
Heineken launches search engine to push Sol into independent retailers.
Sol beer takes ‘gamble’ and creates search platform to add ‘credibility’ to the brand.


By creating a clear role for the brand in the lives of its marketing sceptic audience, we are a long way away from the convention of beer brand advertising in the social media age. If we are to fly the flag for independent minds, men in flux in their 30’s looking for inspiration at this crucial time of their lives - we want to be doing something real, useful and bloody grown up to be taken seriously by them.

This is the creed we preach in CKSK when planning around Sol today. Be real and be useful because if we want that bar call to be Sol not Corona, then it won’t be achieved by becoming more Sunshine than Corona- we have to find a more independent way by becoming a beacon for freedom in men’s lives, and our first iteration of that is Sol Search.

That mantra has struck a note with Sol consumers. After launching in London, Sao Paulo, Athens, Thessaloniki, Mexico City and Riviera Maya, Sol Search has demonstrated powerful brand and online KPI movements:

  • Double digit equity growth for the brand amongst Sol Search users by 12%
  • Over 15,000,000 online impressions
  • Increase in brand consideration of 66%
  • Over 3 minutes dwell time by users, far ahead of the 15 second norm for brand websites.

Our experiment with an independent internet worked.

  • 12% PointsEquity Increase
  • Over 15,000,000Social impressions as a result of PR
  • 56%Increased Positive Brand Statement
  • 66%Consideration Increases