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Global Marketing: Understanding Your Competition

March 5, 2012

By Ken Beaulieu, senior director of marketing and communications, ANA

I recently interviewed Chris Burggraeve, chief marketing officer at Anheuser-Busch InBev and president of the World Federation of Advertisers, in advance of his address at the ANA/WFA Global Marketing Conference on March 14 in New York City. He offered a veritable treasure trove of insight on building a global brand, introducing new products to new markets, reaching consumers at a local level, capitalizing on digital media, and meeting the needs of society across the world. I can't thank him enough for his time and candor.

Over the next few weeks in this space, I will share Chris' responses to my list of questions. Let's get it started:

Q. When it comes to implementing a global marketing strategy, why is it important to understand the strengths of your competitors in each market, especially new competitors?

Chris: For a global top five FMCG like we are, with 200-plus brands, three of which are global (Budweiser, Stella Artois, and Beck's), having a strong global marketing capability is critical, but marketing can never win the fight alone. One can only win over the long haul by sharing a same culture, by being systematically better operators, by being systematically better at bottom-line management, and by being superior at topline management. Within the topline capability, the key is to be better at resourceful brand building than the competition - in every country where we operate, and across countries.

For us that means having a clearly articulated AB InBev "Way of Marketing," rigorously implemented globally by all our marketers and clearly supported and understood by our operators. The AB InBev Way of Marketing is about art, science, and discipline. It is the one language spoken by all. It consists of three key pillars. The first pillar relates to brand portfolio management, starting with proprietary demand segmentation models aimed at capturing existing, latent, and emerging demand. The second is about connecting in relevant and efficient ways with our drinkers. The third pillar is all about ongoing renovation and innovation. All our marketers go through a total of 24 modules in our AB InBev Marketing University - and the training never stops. Many people from other functions also go through a marketing training "boot camp," as marketing is too important to be left to the marketers only. The AB InBev Way of Marketing is part and parcel of our overall company performance and reward system, and it is clearly linked to our overall business model. It is designed to create sustainable brand health. And we all share a deeply held belief that "brand health today, is topline growth tomorrow."

In our strategic planning and outlook sessions each year, we assess our progress versus our own stated dream of "becoming the best beer company in a better world." We see if the deeper underlying values held by consumers have changed, whether new products have appeared that serve the same consumer need as our beers, how our industry is perceived differently by stakeholders, etc. Of course, we always take a step back to see what we can learn from existing and new competition. All the input is then used to make choices and various time horizon plans for every global function, including marketing, and for every country.

 

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