ORLANDO – Anheuser-Busch is investing in innovation by way of an internal team dubbed Apollo 11. The team, which operates separately from the company’s main operations, is dedicated to developing new, innovative products that resonate with customers’ evolving tastes. Ten to 20 innovations come out of the Apollo 11 team per year, one of which was Anheuser-Busch’s first organic beer, Michelob Ultra Pure Gold.
According to Marcel Marcondes, the U.S. chief marketing officer at Anheuser-Busch, the company has sold more than $100 million worth of the beer so far.
“[Innovation] is one of the key agendas for us. In every industry, there is fragmentation. This makes our consumer base much more specific in what they’re looking for; they expect much more from our products,” Marcondes told Beet.TV in an interview during the ANA CMO Growth Council. “Our job is to catch up and to be up to speed and to even surprise them with cool innovations that will serve their needs and solve their problems.”
As Marcondes points out, customer needs have changed, and competition has grown stronger. Paying attention to what those needs are is the way forward, per Marcondes, and as marketers, the way to win is to remain relevant. That’s inherently changed the way marketing works, says Marcondes.
“We can’t play the game of noise. It’s a game of relevance. The companies that build brands that are more relevant to consumers are the ones that will win,” says Marcondes. “Thinking about that, we need to change a historical misbehavior that we have. Marketers were educated to convince people to buy what we make. Nowadays, we need to get adjusted to consumer needs and learn how to reinvent faster so we can adjust what we make based on what they’re looking for.”
As the role of marketers has changed, the media landscape has also grown increasingly complex. Anheuser-Busch is investing in digital platforms where messages can be more personalized and targeted for a specific group, as well as more traditional channels like TV. While Marcondes says “it would be great if TV could evolve” to a place where messages can be tailored for certain audiences, as of now it’s a channel for both brand awareness and trial. As Anheuser-Busch’s innovation teams seed new products and test them in select markets before scaling up, running TV spots in those markets helps push people to try new products, says Marcondes.
“TV remains a powerful tool,” he says. “This is when you get a big moment.”