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Real-Time Rewards For A-B InBev

A pioneer in the use of traditional media to build its brands, Anheuser-Busch InBev is increasingly tapping into emerging platforms to connect beer drinkers with its products in real-time. The glue to its strategy is share-worthy content that brings people together like friends over a beer, keeps conversations stimulating, and drives business ROI.

“You could have very entertaining content that people find funny, but if it doesn’t affect your brand in any meaningful way, then it’s not valuable,” says Lucas Herscovici, vice president of digital marketing, North America at Anheuser-Busch InBev. Herscovici will speak at the ANA Real-Time Marketing Conference, December 4, in New York City. Here, he discusses the benefits and challenges of marketing in real-time and how the company keeps the content pipeline full.

Q. How have digital and social media benefitted your real-time marketing efforts?

A. Digital allows us to reach beer drinkers based on their attitudinal and behavioral preferences. We can even reach consumers based on what beers they’ve enjoyed in the past four weeks. Then we connect with them in real-time through Facebook, Twitter and other channels, based on their location, what they’re talking about, and who they’re connected with.

Content optimization is another benefit. TV does not allow you to optimize your creative -- to quickly put more money behind an ad that is performing well -- because there’s a big delay in the delivery of metrics. In digital, you get real-time metrics. We can quickly assess media based on certain KPIs and real-time conversations consumers are having around the creative, and we can adapt our content accordingly to optimize and improve it. We’ve been seeing some amazing results. In several cases, digital has proven to have better returns on investment than TV.

Q. Please share an example.

A. Last December, we conducted research with Facebook and DataLogix to better understand if the content we were posting on Facebook to our fans was actually driving business results — that is, beer sales. We focused on the six best-performing posts based on engagement rates and boosted them with media. Some of our posts were NFL-related and others were more lifestyle-related. They were clever, creative posts, representative of what we post on our page. We were able to prove that for every dollar we spent on media on Facebook, we realized a six-dollar return, through beer sales. I always say, “I’m not in the business of driving engagements, I’m in the business of selling beer.” We wanted to prove that there’s a correlation between engagement and sales, and that’s what we did through this research.

Q. What challenges does real-time marketing present?

One of the biggest challenges is how to interpret all the data we have. For example, is “sentiment” relevant or not? What types of conversations drive sales? The answers to these questions can help inform our decisions about the type of content we should create and optimize. But, as I mentioned, that optimization needs to be based on our business drivers -- sales and brand health -- and not on other variables.

Another challenge is changing the way we do marketing in terms of the percentage of budgets spent on paid media. In the traditional media world, most of the budget is spent on paid media; earned and own media account for a small percentage of the media you generate. My mission and my challenge is to create amazing content that increases the percentage of earned and own media that we have within our mix. Great marketers create great content, and they have their own fans who create earned media on their behalf. Earned media needs to drive brand health and sales -- which, ultimately, will give you a better ROI.

Q. What is your definition of “quality content”? How do you measure the success of your content programs?

A. Quality content is entertaining and aligned with the brand’s positioning. It needs to provide value and utility. Most importantly, the content needs to represent what the brand stands for and create a positive image in a consumer’s mind. What we care about is content that drives sales and brand health. Those are the two metrics we always look at across channels.

Q. How are you keeping the content pipeline full for real-time marketing? Are you using both internal and external resources?

A. In addition to internal resources, we tap our agencies for content creation. Our fans and other third parties also create content for us. If you look at our Facebook pages, for example, a high percentage of our content is from third parties. There are many, many creative people out there that we need to encourage to create content for us. The only way we can create content in a scalable and sustainable way is to leverage all the resources at our disposal, including our sponsors, day in and day out. We sponsor Major League Baseball, the NFL, the FIFA World Cup, and more than 90 professional sports teams -- so there are many, many assets we can leverage for content creation.

We proactively ask our fans to send us content. For example, they send us pictures of Bud Light-themed cakes that they have made for their birthdays. We’ve received hundreds of pictures, and we’ve then posted many of them. The level of love these beer drinkers have for our brands is incredible. We understand the reality that our brands are not just what we say they are, but what our fans say they are as well.

 

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