While the maxim that today’s consumers “value experiences over thing” is frequently spouted, few product brands put that insight into action more effectively than Stella Artois. It recently partnered with UBER to engage drinkers during Art Basel in Miami by launching the first-ever UberBOAT to transport exhibition-goers anywhere in Miami to help enrich their experiences. It has partnered with Water.org through the Buy a Lady a Drink program to supply clean water in developing countries. And this week it is sponsoring a concert under the stars in New Your City featuring John Legend who had previously partnered with the brand on it Host Beautifully initiative. The results of these and other experiential programs – 22% annual growth and increasing importance in the AB/InBev portfolio.
I had the opportunity to talk with Ricardo Marques, vice president of marketing for Stella Artois, about the evolving consumer and his role a change agent for the brand. Here are the highlights.
Marques: This has been really a game changing year for Stella Artois overall. Not only looking at our sales performance – 22% growth and our all-time high sales performance – but also looking at how we were able to tap into the changes that we see happening in the social media world, with our consumer, what they’re looking for, and how the world is rapidly changing.
[One of the factors] affecting beer today and how it connects with our brand is the fact that the meaning of luxury has drastically changed over the past few years. That is one of the things that is driving much of what we’re doing today on Stella Artois.
Luxury has moved from possessions of material goods into experiences that I can share with people that are important groups. This is what’s driving everything that we’re doing – to inspire and enable our audience to give things with meaning.
In music it is why we’re partnering with John Legend and giving under the stars experiences. We’re bringing this very special experience in New York on December 9th called Stars by Stella Artois where we’re giving to New York, a city that has everything, something it doesn’t have which is the opportunity to enjoy a clear night under the stars.
Ellett: How did you come to the insight that you should build a lot more of your focus around experiences versus things? It’s a pretty significant commitment.
Marques: We’ve been very closely observing what is of importance and how the values of our audience have been changing. To be frank, I can say that we’ve been adapting to those changes [for a while]. If you go back to the 80s and 90s we were talking to that specific moment in time with our Perfection has Its Price campaign. That made sense back then in connecting with culture and that generation. Fast forward many years and having gone through these 2008 financial crisis, our audiences and the world in general have had a dramatic [shift] in terms of values.
People are starting to appreciate much more the time they spend with their friends, with thier families, and the experiences that they can share together. We are observing the world, taking a step back, seeing what is changing around us. Because at the very end of the day we need to make sure that Stella Artois has a point of view on the world and is culturally relevant.
Ellett: How have those changes affected your media strategy?
Marques: To your point as the world is changing so rapidly and as social becomes more of a key gateway to connect with our audience, we’ve been focusing on making sure that we have meaningful content first and foremost, content that is relative to our core audience. Content that gets through and that speaks their lifestyle and what they’re looking for.
Then secondly, we’re looking at ecommerce opportunities to bring the brand closer in a more convenient way to that audience. It is exciting to see how things are changing so quickly and how many opportunities are out there for brands that are willing to try new things, to experiment, and to embrace technology.
Ellett: How has this shift changed the way you work with agencies and multiple partners to keep a cohesive brand as you go about the process?
Marques: That’s a great point. It’s a matter of tenacity and flexibility. We put a lot of focus on making sure that we have an airtight strategy behind Stella Artois and being sure that they’re very clear and they’re very robust; and that won’t change. But what will change, and it will give us agility and flexibility, is our ability to tap into creativity.
Creativity today is not only in the four walls of any given agency partner, but it’s also out there in cultural creators in the space of music, such as our partnership throughout the year with John Legend. Not only on our Host Beautifully campaign where he posted a couple of his personal tips on how to host and how to select the right music, but also Give Beautifully, our holiday campaign where we’re offering to our audience a holiday single Under the Stars.
Partnering with cultural influencers is making sure that we are able to tap into creativity of collaborators, not only John but also different creators in the world of food, design, art. We find that there are a ton of great ideas out there. There are a ton of great people out there who are passionate about these things, the same things that we are and that our audience is [passionate about]. I think to your point it’s really about making sure that we master the art of balancing tenacity and flexibility to make sure that we keep our strategy, but also free up the brand to be culturally relevant and to be agile.
Ellett: How did you justify that investment the investment in content and social programs? Was it a leap of faith or did you have other approaches that gave you the confidence that was the right decision to make? Because you certainly got there before most others in your category
Marques: Absolutely and to your point, we were the first beer brand to advertise on Instagram and one of the first to advertise using the Carousel model. We currently have about 50,000 followers. Also, we’re the first brand to advertise on Instagram using the Carousel model. Twitter continues to work really, really hard for us. Today we rank second amongst beer brands in terms of engagement. Also in the ecommerce space, our partnerships with GILT and some others have been positioning us to make sure that we capture that opportunity.
Now to your question, how do we justify the focus and investment behind these initiatives? Simply — because our audience is already there. This is where the puck is going. Of course, there will be instances that will not be as successful as others, but what we’re looking for is to learn from those quickly and move forward.
This article was written by John Ellett from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.