Kraft Heinz, AB InBev, Electronic Arts & Merlin Entertainments Share Marketing Innovation Stories at Brand Innovators Inaugural European Livecast

Brand Innovators kicked off the first event in a new monthly European livecast series last week, featuring speakers from Kraft Heinz, AB InBev, Electronic Arts, and Merlin Entertainments.

Victoria Sjardin, VP of Marketing at The Kraft Heinz Company thinks about innovation in three ways – understanding your brand, your consumers, and your business model.

During COVID, the company launched a direct-to-consumer offering in the UK called Heinz To Home in order to serve their consumers. This has required more creativity when it comes to planning processes and communicating with consumers.

“Innovation is relative,” said Victoria Sjardin, VP of Marketing, The Kraft Heinz Company. “What might be innovative for one company, may be a core pillar of another. You need to think about innovation in terms of how to do things differently and better in order to drive value. We have something at Kraft Heinz called Acts not Ads. In terms of past CPG marketing, these companies usually just tell consumers what they want them to understand in advertisements. If you think about the plethora of platforms today, it’s overwhelming. We try to understand our consumers through what is relevant to them. We want to bring consumer communication at the speed of culture to cut through in a different way. We don’t want to be interrupting, but commenting on culture and providing experiences.”

Brand Innovators kicked off the first event in a new monthly European livecast series last week. Sjjardin was joined by speakers from AB InBev, Electronic Arts, and Merlin Entertainments.  

For AB InBev, innovating to meet the needs of the world during the pandemic meant converting beer to bread and donating tons of it to food banks across Belgium. This idea was born through a collaboration across multiple teams.

“It was this brilliant chemistry that happened when all the brains, creative power and technical skills came together which really enabled us to have a big impact,” said Julie Yufe, GM & Head of Growth Markets Europe, Anheuser-Busch InBev. “I’m hoping some of the new habits that people have built as a result of the pandemic will stick. They not only work in favor of the categories that we build but also towards our mission. People are coming together and having more meaningful relationships and when that happens, there is a lot of greatness that we can unlock.”

Digital has also played a key role in the company’s approach to communicating with partners and consumers.

“As digital becomes more important, we need to separate the silos between our different departments,” said Dries Mertens, Managing Director, Draftline, Anheuser-Busch InBev. “Too often, the creative is given to the media team who executes it and after the fact, we realize there was a better way to campaign. Now, we test more in advance with the digital and creative teams and once the campaigns go live, the teams connect frequently to assess and adjust as needed. This is a capability that if you bring it in-house and have more control, it can be very effective.”

The change in consumer travel behavior has had a large impact on Merlin Entertainments, which owns and runs 120-130 attractions worldwide across the globe in over 20 countries. The brand has shifted its marketing budgets from out-of-home (OOH) to more digital channels since people are no longer traveling to city centers to go to work and are instead working from home. Since park capacities are now limited, the company wants to focus on selling a lower volume of tickets but at a higher price point, a shift from a company known for online deals.

Additionally, since the pandemic hit, the company is targeting local consumers to visit its attractions – when they are open and safe to visit – as opposed to international tourists.

“People are staying in the surrounding areas of where they live,” said Ulf Tiedemann, Head of Marketing, Germany, Merlin Entertainment. “We used to have big campaigns in public transport. Luckily for us, our Berlin business is not dependent on international visitors. Even domestic travel in Germany is not as popular. We were lucky last summer because we did not need to change our audience too much. We were able to have a large audience with domestic travelers, even though we no longer had international travelers.”

Electronic Arts has been attracting a lot of new players to its gaming platforms since the pandemic hit last year. Rob Bullough, Director at Global Brand Marketing, Electronic Arts, explained that the relationship between the player and the brand is getting closer and closer and that EA is looking at ways to develop those relationships in a meaningful way.

“One of the very prevalent behaviors that you see in video games nowadays is social play,” said Bullough. “And what I mean by that is a place to go and hang out and people clustering together as a group of human beings, playing the game together and jumping into the next game and the next game. That type of behavior is pretty much the price of entry for a younger generation of gamers. So finding ways to not exploit that but develop it with the players is something we talk about endlessly at EA.”

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