Creativity should be a means to an end, not an end in itself: AB InBev’s Marcel Marcondes

AB InBev's Global CMO Marcondes shares secrets to building powerful brands

Khushi Keswani
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Marcel Marcondes

Marcel Marcondes

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New Delhi: Marcel Marcondes, the Global Chief Marketing Officer of AB InBev, recently took the stage at the Cannes Lions to share the company's winning formula for cultivating enduring and powerful brands. Amid a long debate about AI (artificial intelligence) vs. HI (human intelligence), brand consultants and marketers have been trying to find a midway to automate hectic tasks without compromising on quality or creativity. 

On the same lines, Marcondes said, “It's a human business. Let's make sure we always put people first.” 

He underscored the need for focus and simplicity, especially in today's complex world, by saying, “Focus. Simplicity. It helps a lot.”

Recognising the ever-evolving preferences of consumers, Marcondes highlighted the growing desire for immersive experiences. “People out there are looking for amazing experiences,” he noted. “They're living today.” Creativity was positioned as a significant competitive advantage but with a crucial caveat. “Creativity can be a great competitive advantage if you use it the right way,” Marcondes explained.

A recurring theme throughout his presentation was the importance of striking a balance between creative freedom and measurable results. “In the end, to land the plane, we have to drive both,” he said. “That is ultimately our job at the end of the day.” 

Marcondes' presentation delved deeper into how AB InBev tackles challenges with innovative solutions. One such example is the company's move beyond traditional media buying to become more integrated within the content itself. This approach reflects the “age of experience” that today's consumers demand. Specific examples included the Michelob Ultra Lap of Legends, a first-of-its-kind real versus virtual race, and the Budweiser ‘Bring Home the Bud’ campaign, a clever pivot in response to unforeseen circumstances at the World Cup.

But there’s no end point when deciding the success of a campaign; it’s the experiences consumers remember, and the brand recall determines the fruitfulness of brand engagement. Marcondes acknowledged the need for focus, stating, “You need focus from 500 to this, right? I'm pretty sure that in your businesses, there's something to reflect on. Simplicity in the world as it is today is key.” Herein lies the importance of crafting bold experiences for consumers.

“This new generation is looking at inflation, the cost of education, post-pandemic life, and everything that it has been through.

And what are they doing? They're living today. They're changing their lifestyles. They want to live in the present.”

He remembered a conversation with Professor Scott Dalloway saying, “This is the first adult generation ever to say that instead of saving money to do a mortgage, they're saving money to buy a ticket for Taylor Swift.”

“So we are putting together every year a strong calendar of bold experiences they will never forget. Megabrands are brands that the world would miss if they didn't exist. That's the kind of brand recognition we're working towards, and these experiences are how we get there," Marcondes said.

Marcondes then turned his focus to AB InBev's partnership with the Olympics. 

“Most of the consumers mentioned that their go-to beverage to watch sports is beer. During the Olympic Games, you know very well, games are happening at 7 am, 8 am, 10 am, noon, 3 pm, and even 3 am. Corona Zero, the non-alcoholic option, fills a gap in the market and caters to this unique viewing experience,” Marcondes explained.

However, there's more to this partnership than just brand placement, according to Marcondes. “This is more than just a sponsorship deal," he explained. It has three key components:

  • The first component is aligning with consumer needs, as discussed earlier.  
  • The second component involves creating opportunities for consumers to engage with the brand.  
  • The third component is amplifying the excitement surrounding the Olympics.  

The importance of using creativity effectively therefore intensifies. Marcondes thinks that creativity should be a means to an end, a way to solve business and consumer problems, not an end in itself. “Creativity needs to have a purpose, a reason, and a mission. And this is what really makes creativity a competitive advantage,” he said.

Marcondes concluded his presentation by emphasising the importance of focus and perseverance. He recalled the advice he received after AB InBev won Cannes Lions Marketer of the Year for the second time: “Don't get complacent, keep moving forward.” 

He closed by highlighting AB InBev's commitment to continuous learning and improvement, with the goal of building enduring and successful brands that consumers love.

brands Experiences creativity consumers