Global Marketing: Reaching Consumers at a Local Level
April 17, 2012
By Ken Beaulieu, vice president of marketing and communications, ANA
This is part three of my recent interview with Chris Burggraeve, chief marketing officer at Anheuser-Busch InBev and president of the World Federation of Advertisers. In part one, Chris explained why it’s critical to understand the strengths of your competitors in each market, and how AB In-Bev’s “Way of Marketing” creates sustainable brand health. In part two, he discussed the importance of understanding a country’s unique cultures. Here, he shares his thoughts on the inherent challenges of marketing at a local level.
Q: Is AB InBev making a big effort to reach consumers at a local level with customized messages, media, and even products? What are some of the challenges global marketers must consider?
Chris: People may perceive some of our brands globally, but they drink locally. To manage the inherent complexity of global brands like Budweiser and Stella Artois, we apply a “Freedom in a Framework” principle. The framework is very clearly prescribed globally. A global brand has one relevant positioning created based on testing in key countries, one global look and feel (from packaging to communication), one global campaign, and one centrally steered renovation and innovation pipeline. It is run by a clear global brand owner, who, of course, functionally leads a team represented by the key countries.
The degrees of freedom by local marketers to manage the global brand are limited — by choice. But they do have some flexibility to adjust to local taste and custom. Take sports, for example, and its link to Budweiser. The global number one sport passion is soccer/football. But for Canadians, it’s ice hockey, and in the U.S., baseball is the “great American pastime” that fits the Budweiser brand positioning best. Any execution within our current “Anticipation” campaign and “Grab some Buds” creative executions will take these sensitivities into account to drive relevance. All great global brands learn over time to balance global consistency with local relevance. That is a core capability to being successful in this global brand-building game.
Conversely, we are portfolio marketers. We have plenty of big local brands in each local portfolio, such as Bud Light in the U.S., Brahma and Skol in Brazil, Jupiler in Belgium, or Harbin in China. We call them our “local jewels.” The local VP of marketing is the high-level brand steward of a local jewel. He or she completely determines everything local, within the methodology of the AB InBev Way of Marketing. They have a local degree of freedom, and a completely locally designed framework. For example, Paul Chibe, VP of marketing in the U.S., stewards huge local brands like Bud Light and Michelob Ultra, and a very wide range of U.S.-centric brands. Paul, who is based in St. Louis, and his team manage the full portfolio in the U.S., including the global brands Budweiser, Stella Artois, and Becks. On the latter, though, he works closely with the team of Frank Abenante, global VP of brands and insights, who is based in New York. Frank and his team interact with all VPs of marketing around the world on these three global brands.
As a marketer, it’s great to be able to acquire different skills over time within the same company — running a local brand, running a portfolio of local and global brands in a country, running a global brand from the center, and, ultimately, running a portfolio of global and local brands from the center. All require different skills, but I would advise any marketer to start on a local brand in a country first.
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