Anheuser-Busch Brands’ Media Goal Is 50% Earned, Says Digital Marketing Chief

InBev’s Anheuser-Busch (A-B) brands are using content to drive sales and distribution, as well as awareness. And they’re increasingly using data analytics and measurement tools to direct their actions. VP, Digital Marketing Lucas Herscovici told beverage marketers at the eBev conference in Denver that the company is in the midst of a seismic shift in media weight, from 90% paid to 50% earned.

“How do you use digital to move the business? By increasing sales and improving brand health,” Herscovici said. “It requires a change in the model, and that’s why content is so big.”

The world’s biggest beer marketer uses a three-tiered approach in content marketing, guided by scalability and regulatory limitations, as many social channels are not age-gated. Pinterest falls in A-B’s observe-only category, which also includes channels with limited penetration into the company’s target markets. Vine and Instagram are in the experimental column, where A-B mines content placed by fans for reposting on Facebook and Twitter, which have enough reach to be scalable for the likes of Budweiser and Bud Light.

Like many brand marketers, A-B is experimenting with the short-video format used on Vine and Instagram. It partnered with Major League Baseball to create a six-second Vine in which a baseball dives into a Budweiser ice chest and emerges as the Bud baseball can that was distributed this past summer. “I believe that the short-form six-second and 15-minute videos are the content format of the future,” Herscovici said.

Content marketing also calls for new metrics, he said. When the A-B sponsored “Made in America” video series featuring Jay-Z and Rihanna got 734 notes on Tumblr, Herscovici and other brand managers saw it as significant. “If you get great numbers like that, who cares if there are no sales,” Herscovici said, but then added that sales and penetration metrics seem to follow

Using monthly surveys and reviews of Datalogix in-store data, the company found, for instance, that a native advertising campaign on BuzzFeed gave a 50% brand lift to its Lime-A-Rita malt beverage that is aimed at women. Huge sales lifts led the company to expand the line into new flavors. Similarly, a campaign using Twitter TV ad targeting for the brand exceeded audience engagement goals by three times.

A-B’s surveys also track the “brand health” value of social campaigns, which is measured by asking consumers who engaged to name their three favorite brands in the category. The chief purpose of this metric is to gauge a brand’s life stage, according to Herscovici. “It helps us determine a mature brand’s longevity or if a new brand might be a premium brand tomorrow,” he said.

Herscovici pointed out that TV-like measures of engagement and brand awareness can be had from scalable social networks such as Facebook. Consider: A-B contacted a brand fan who posted pictures on Instagram of a football stadium constructed out of cold cuts for a party and asked him for more pictures and permission to run some of them on Facebook. The “Meat Stadium” post, Herscovici said, reached 23 million people.

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