The Global Head of Beyond Beer and Global Brands shares her thoughts on how brands have changed over the last 30 years, globalisation, agency models and being present on the metaverse.
Read the whitepaper 'Local, global or glocal: Effective brand governance in the age of marketing transformation' here.
Could you tell us about your role within global brand management?
I have a double role since I have category management – for instance, all the innovations that are almost brand agnostic – and I also manage global brands.
I handle two big global brands – Desperados and Tiger – along with two smaller ones – Strongbow and Lagunitas. By ‘bigger global brands’ I mean they have more footprint, are present in more regions and are strategic brands for the operating companies.
The smaller ones are kind of incubators or innovations that have potential to be big in the future.
What is your responsibility for these brands?
For most, it’s developing the positioning and the big above-the-line campaigns. For Desperados and Tiger, the role is broader – it also includes consumer experience, innovation pipeline along with activations of our platforms.
How complex has it become to manage and govern global brands?
There are two big changes now: firstly, we understand the importance of creativity and secondly, the role of digital.
You have to be more present with local content in real-time with digital. This wasn’t the case before. With creativity, you have to be more insightful and become a part of the conversation over simply taking a top-down approach just saying how amazing my product is. What digital brought is a behavioural transformation where people interact with the brands that are relevant for them, they interact with brands they believe are worth sharing.
The media setting has also changed. If people aren’t looking at the TV anymore, then you can’t use it for your brand message. Coordinating the consistency of a global brand and being relevant in the local market is a big challenge.
How have you restructured for more agility and to make yourself more insightful as an organisation?
We're still learning and aren’t quite there yet. Having a big network agency helps. One big agency helps keep the consistency of your brand. Network agencies also have local hubs that bring market-specific relevance. This can be very effective. For example, you’ll have someone in Publicis [Heineken’s agency partner] who has managed the brand, the big campaigns and the positioning that guarantees consistency. Then, you have Publicis in Brazil that’s connected to the market; they can do the top spins – local activations of a global campaign – and have topical insights into the country.
This is how our partners are key to the structure. We have communities of practice internally, too. It's a community that regularly manages the brand; it’s not just two or three brand managers.
Do you have a name for the model you use to map out your global brand? This is especially with the lens of global brand governance.
Heineken is a truly global brand that is present all over the globe. The others are international and have strongholds in some regions. Leading them centrally brings synergies and consistency; and most importantly makes us raise the bar on creative excellence. This way, the positioning and the biggest above-the-line campaigns are the same.
Heineken has been a very successful global brand for years both in terms of business and brand building, and we aim to resource other brands inspired by the Heineken model, so you would have experts in brand building and innovation but they need to be supported by experts who help these brands lead the game in web 3.0 and consumer experience, for instance.
Do you measure efficiencies?
Our main KPI in brand building is the Brand Power, how our brands are growing and getting stronger in the markets they have a strategic position. Brands that have strong brand power are the ones who will get a premium position on the market.
The main benefits of managing them centrally is creative excellence and quality in everything we do. But it’s also about efficiency; instead of creating three campaigns in different markets, we have one, and we can focus the investment of the markets in the working media. But, as I said before, we also have to be relevant in the different markets, coordinating a strong community that shares learnings and leverages successful cases is key.
How does that work practically? How do you share learnings with other teams?
It’s from the communities. For example, a big part of the Desperados volume is made in Europe. I have this community that consists of marketing managers and marketing directors and we share global campaigns, top spins, innovations, insights and the reasons for success. We then glean inspiration and reapply in the relevant places.
Is this done over mail or Slack?
We mostly have Microsoft Teams meetings to discuss regular agendas. We get together every two months to discuss different topics. Sometimes it's just a discussion on what is the next campaign or about learning everything that we are doing in the top spins.
There are so many moving parts. Can you share stories of when it’s gone wrong and what you’ve done to fix it?
Markets, with their autonomy and empowerment, can make it challenging to deal with a global brand. The team can always say that they don’t think the campaign is good enough and aren’t going to use it.
What we’ve learned is that it’s best to engage with a few markets right in the beginning. They are going to be your campaign’s ambassadors. They are in the briefing, creative idea generation and are a part of the whole process from the start. We also test ideas in several markets and have the data to show that it works. . Close collaboration with the markets, understanding their needs and engagement in the process are for me key to run a global brand successfully.
Does it take time to nurture people who are used to that way of working?
Yes, it does. It's a relationship of trust. The more people see that you're building nice things they can use, the more it means they can avoid creating stuff for themselves. It gives them some space to do something else; the whole process becomes more efficient.
Good work leads to good work. That’s why you need to engage some people and also gain their trust.
Is there anything missing in the way global brands are currently managed? Could it be a tech solution?
As a culture, we empower global teams at Heineken. But I see in many circumstances, we don’t empower global teams enough. I believe we have to be clear on which brands are going to be run globally, be aware of the pros and cons of running a brand globally vs running it locally and once we make a decision put the right resources in place: investments, people and governance.
Inefficiencies happen when we don`t decide either way and then many people are working towards the same objective. It is not only inefficient but also frustrating for people working on the projects.
Technology helps to make information and assets flow, but also to have real time understanding on what works and what doesn`t, so we can adapt assets and create new ones that are relevant in the local context.
Do you use a tech platform to distribute your campaigns globally?
We have a platform called ‘The Bottle’ where markets have access to all our campaigns, all different assets and formats to be used in different media touchpoints. It conveniently has past campaigns and everything else in one place. We did this two-three years ago and it works quite well in terms of technology for sharing.
It also allows us to understand what assets are being used more than others.
Most recently we are willing to centralize the digital media learnings so we can have global learnings on what assets are working, adapt real time in a global scale but also create very quickly for specific local needs.
What difference did this platform make?
At first, it was all about manually sending campaigns to each other. No one had visibility of all the available assets. Now it's much easier.
You go to The Bottle and see the assets for keywords like ‘functional’, ‘emotional’ or ‘occasions’, etc. It saves a lot of interactions and mail exchanges.
The evolution of this is when we centralize digital media learnings so we can have global learnings on what assets are working, adapt real time on a global scale but also create very quickly for specific local needs.
Can you list some trends that might affect global brand governance in the future?
It’s a complete shift in the way we communicate with brands. It was too top-down before. If you're not a part of a conversation that people want to have today, if they don't want to share your campaign, then you're just not remembered. We talk about purpose, sustainability, Gen Z or gaming, but what they all show us is that people's behaviours towards the world in general are changing and the brands need to stay relevant.
I believe a brand should have a point of view on what role in culture it wants to play and then just be very real about it. Choose one topic that is part of pop culture that’s relevant to people and which makes a difference in the world. It also needs to make sense for your brand, otherwise, you aren’t going to survive.
What about the metaverse?
For me, people will continue to live their real and digital lives. We have to be present on both and learn how. I don`t know if we will be living in the metaverse or just another level of gaming like we`ve been gaming for years.
For example, Desperados is a brand that has ‘letting loose’ as its premise. It induces a high-energy moment with friends and is very much Gen Z. Then we checked what letting loose means in the metaverse/ gaming.
The high energy is also there, maybe they are not IRL with a lot of people but they are playing together, making connections and celebrating achievements… It's not just about putting a party in the metaverse that will make you win in the ‘letting loose’ space. It’s understanding how these needs are reflected in this space and how you can be relevant there.