We live in a world that is moving faster than ever. How consumers will interact with the digital world 18 to 24 months from now is highly uncertain.
Marketers are having serious conversations about artificial intelligence, not something you would have connected with our business a few years ago.
The speed of these changes does not require us to abandon the basic tenets of marketing: great understanding of the consumer, deep insights and positioning that connects with a higher purpose. But the way in which we achieve those long-cherished goals is changing significantly.
We need to develop the capacity to move faster. I am terrified by the agility of smaller companies that can move much faster than we can. What we need in the future is a lot more hunger and entrepreneurship, and that’s the huge risk for a big company like ourselves.
This need for agility also applies to creative output. We must maintain standards of excellence, despite the fact that we are producing more and more content.
Creativity is so important in a world where consumers can blot out your messages with increasing ease. One way to attract them is to be relevant as a brand and deliver messages that are truly inspiring to consumers.
Today, we produce more pieces of creative many more times than we did 18 months ago. Go 18 months into the future and that number will have increased many times over. To deliver that across more platforms, we are also working with more creative partners. If you are simply creating five big TV spots, you can ensure creativity in a particular way, but if you are producing thousands of pieces of creative, then you need a different framework for ensuring greatness.
That’s the challenge we are grappling with at the moment. I’m not saying we have achieved the holy grail but it involves the entire organisation.
Unless we are all committed to staying on top, no matter how much data we have, no matter how efficient we are at targeting every individual at the right time and right location, we will fail. We will only be relevant to consumers if we reach them in a creative and relevant fashion.
We need to build creativity into all aspects of our marketing and specifically into the way we are dealing with precision marketing and digital transformation.
Creativity and data must come together
The biggest decision we have made at Heineken is that precision marketing and creativity are two things that go hand in hand. The way that we developed our precision marketing programme, our entire approach to data, is very much interwoven with the way we talk about creativity. That’s important because the big risk is that you have two tracks that do not come together.
We are shifting from a world where digital was a function within a department to a world where the marketing director has to be head of digital. In two or three years, I don’t think we will use the word ‘digital’ any more because digital is marketing.
We are moving towards a future where data is the foundation for all our marketing activities. It’s about the quality of the data we are able to collect and our ability to utilise that data to become increasingly granular in the way you talk to consumers.
One of the enduring messages we want to promote as a brewer in this digital world is our core belief that the world is a better place if people understand drinking in moderation. Living and committing to this brand purpose is increasingly important in a world where consumers can dig up the truth about your brand.
You simply have more fun with our products if you understand moderation and we believe very much that our role is to drive that agenda in a very big way and at all levels of society.
That’s what galvanizes us as an organisation. The moderation agenda means different things to people in the UK and Vietnam and will be articulated differently in these countries but the fundamental core idea persists at all levels of the company.
We only survive as a big drinks company if drink is something that is considered to have a positive role in society. If there’s a major negative side effect of what we are doing, then our outlook starts to look less positive.
Søren Hagh is supporting the WFA’s Project Reconnect, which champions how marketing and brands can be a force for good.
Follow the cause at @WFAReconnect and www.project-reconnect.com