An AB InBev / SABMiller powerhouse must not stifle the creativity of individual brands

A merger between AB InBev and SABMiller, owners of brands including Stella Artois, Budweiser and Bulmers would create a beer powerhouse but individual brands must not be overlooked, says Sean Kinmont, founding partner and creative director at 23red.

An AB InBev / SABMiller powerhouse must not stifle the creativity of individual brands, argues Simon Kinmont
An AB InBev / SABMiller powerhouse must not stifle the creativity of individual brands, argues Simon Kinmont

Should the impending £69.8bn AB-InBev / SABMiller deal be sealed, it will result in a monster business that will touch around a third of beers sold the world-over.

It’s a deal that’s also sure to touch many marketers across a huge portfolio of brands, and there are a number of considerations to review.

The main point to bear in mind is that the most important relationships here are those between the brands within each group and the drinker.

A new structure must consolidate values and drive efficiencies through scale, but allow individual brand expression and creativity

From Molson to Peroni, each brand has millions of strong, loyal connections with customers, and the challenge remains in keeping the identity and creativity of each brand strong and stand-alone.

The relationship between the customer and SABMiller or AB InBev is close to non-existent, so on the surface has little impact.

The merging of management teams at these behemoths and the structure decided must allow the child brands room and autonomy to grow and evolve in the same way as they do now.  Whether marketing managers will have this autonomy is yet to be seen.

As often happens when major players join together in this way, there is a risk that committees and quality control levels may stifle the expression of the individual brands. Will marketers now have more hoops to jump through in order to get budget for initiatives such as The House of Peroni and the recent Smart Beer Fridge from the Budweiser Goal Lab?

Powerful trade relationships

Each company has its own individual values – it will be interesting to see how these distinct values are consolidated across the new group and how they’ll align.

Both have made commitments to social responsibility, and with customers making purchasing decisions on these more and more, the companies will need to carefully combine their efforts in a transparent way.

This merger would create powerful trade relationships across the world and the creation and sharing of global marketing assets that could apply to all brands. These could be as diverse as CSR initiatives such as sustainable supply chain, end of life recycling, or creating shareable global marketing assets such as innovative shopper technologies.

Ultimately, a new structure must consolidate values and drive efficiencies through scale, but allow individual brand expression and creativity. Brand managers must be empowered, without too many layers of consent and direction.

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