At Budweiser, Great Marketing Is Still About The Big Idea

Steve Arkley, Budweiser’s global VP of marketing, believes that the key to great marketing and customer experiences is still about the ‘Big Idea.’

At Budweiser, Great Marketing Is Still About The Big Idea

by Giselle Abramovich

Posted on 11-03-2019

To say digital has impacted marketing is an understatement. And while new technologies like voice, immersive realities, and artificial intelligence are certainly shaking things up, Steve Arkley, Budweiser’s global VP of marketing, believes the key to great marketing and customer experiences is still about the “big idea” and sparking meaningful conversations with consumers.

In this exclusive interview with CMO by Adobe, Arkley talks about connecting with consumers as a brand that doesn’t sell directly to people and how technology like QR codes are helping jump that hurdle.

How are you marketing to consumers who are increasingly digital?

Great marketing is about harnessing the power of big ideas. It’s about ideas built upon deep insights that lean into and spark meaningful conversation amongst your consumers. Digital is just a means for amplifying these big ideas.

As a brand that’s not direct to consumer, it can be difficult to connect with people. At least, that’s the common lament I hear from some of these interviews I conduct. How is Budweiser overcoming this?

We have multiple approaches to enriching the consumer experience. We’re looking at packaging and ways in which we can continuously improve that. A good example is what we recently did with Sergio Ramos. We made limited edition bottles featuring his tattoos as part of our brand campaign “Be a King,” where we celebrate his journey of becoming a global king of football. We had QR codes on the packaging that, when linked, drove consumers to view customized content. We use technology to connect with our consumer and enrich their experience.

We’re also working with groups and people that we think can really drive engagement in key cities around the world and bring experiences to life, whether that’s in the world of music, culture, football—all of our brand passion points. We have created an experiential platform called BUDX that’s all about placing Budweiser in the beating heart of the world’s greatest cities. As part of BUDX, we’re working with influencers and key opinion leaders to drive impact for the brand in a highly immersive way. This is part of our publisher mindset strategy, where we craft our brand messages in partnership with cultural leaders from the worlds of music, fashion, lifestyle, sports, and entertainment.

That’s interesting. Seems like in the U.S. the QR code is one of the most underutilized tools in the marketer’s toolset.

One of our largest international markets is China, where we leverage the popularity of QR codes to drive consumer engagement. And the degree of utilization there is very high. We cross-pollinate ideas from one country to another in order to maximize impact and drive an enriched consumer experience across the world.

Can you tell me more about BUDX?

The Budweiser brand is all about celebration. We use the word “king” [to describe] men and women who step up to seize opportunities around the world. We work with up-and-coming musicians, people in fashion and culture, and we give these people a stage. For example, through our partnership with Mixmag, BUDX is delivering content, information on music events in key cities, as well as tickets to consumers. BUDX spotlights people that are influencing culture in cities around the world.

We also work in partnership with a number of different fashion brands to create unique fashion collaborations, including HUF and Moschino. Our HUF x Budweiser collection celebrates our status as the King of Beers and features HUF’s unique take on our iconic brand logos across clothing, outerwear, bags, sneakers, and more. The collaboration with Jeremy Scott, Moschino x Budweiser, was a particularly special one since we’ve worked with Scott before to debut a Budweiser-themed look in his first collection in 2014, and have since unveiled limited-edition beer bottles in China and a 15-piece collection available worldwide that pays homage to our shared history.

You also mentioned a Sergio Ramos collaboration. Can you go into a little bit more detail on that?

We are celebrating people that step up to seize their opportunity as part of our “Be A King” campaign. Sergio Ramos is truly a king of global football [soccer]. He has won the World Cup, he’s won the Champions League, he’s captain of Real Madrid. And we took the opportunity to launch a piece of content that showed his “hero’s journey” and how it has been captured in the tattoos that he has inked on his body.

We brought this idea to life in a short film, which has been released across digital platforms, and linked directly from our packaging as a point of connection with the consumer.

What will be your team’s big bets in 2020?

Pushing our brand to live ‘in culture’ by embracing a publisher mindset is absolutely at the heart of what we need to do. We are shifting from interruption to entertainment by sparking conversation in ways that are relevant for landing our brand message. We will aim to drive deeper connection with our consumers.

Brands and companies that push capabilities in technology and engage consumers in a more relevant and impactful way. We need to be thinking about how we add utility to our consumers’ lives by using deep insights and the flexibility of tech to add positive value from any interaction.

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