Jodi Harris, the global vice president for marketing culture and capabilities at Anheuser-Busch InBev, recently provided the ANA with an overview of AB’s emerging response to the global COVID-19 crisis. AB InBev operates in almost 50 countries and sells beer in more than 150, and is also a member of the ANA Global CMO Leadership Coalition on COVID-19.
1. What is the issue that’s most pressing to you right now? What’s keeping you up at night?
While it may appear to sound cliché, it’s the truth: people. Our business depends on the unwavering commitment and resilience of our team. So we’ve been implementing measures to ensure our colleagues have the support they need to stay safe and healthy. This includes reinventing our business operations and infrastructure to provide essentials, like changing our production line to produce hand sanitizer and working with suppliers to make face masks that benefit our employees as well as our local communities.
We are also training our entire marketing organization around the new capabilities we’re building in real time. While our environment may be filled with uncertainty, our team is channeling energy into learning and experimentation for both personal and business growth.
2. What is the role of marketing today vs. pre-coronavirus, within your organization and externally?
If there is any group that can help lead a company out of this challenge, it is marketing. Marketing is swiftly moving beyond branding and communications to providing business solutions that address people’s needs.
We’re taking on a new leadership role, connecting multiple disciplines within the organization to accelerate programs that make a difference in our communities and people’s lives. In just a few weeks, we’ve implemented a simple, flexible global process. The process is helping us to 1) quickly understand shifting consumer behaviors, 2) collaborate and share best practices on a daily basis, and 3) test and scale solutions within days.
From this creative process, many of our brands have developed unique platforms to support in-home occasions, including home cooking with Stella Artois, live-streaming concerts with our local brands in Brazil, and even reviving our Budweiser “Whassup?” commercial to encourage friends to check up on each other during this period of physical distancing. We’ve also launched a series of initiatives to prompt support of our trade partners, bars, and restaurants across 17 countries utilizing voucher programs, e-commerce, and education platforms.
3. What have you learned? Is there a red flag or insight you can offer to other marketers?
It’s clear that the fundamentals of marketing have never been more important, but the way in which we market is fundamentally changing. The success of our business will depend on our ability to anticipate and solve for consumers’ rapidly changing needs and behaviors. Leverage the power of your whole business to identify trends, challenge processes, build best practices, and test briskly.