What do Budweiser Zero, Corona, and Aguila have in common?
Several things may come to mind. For starters, they’re beer brands, and 2021 Cannes Lions Winners; something that makes us very proud at AB InBev.
Logic might point you towards thinking “of course, any company would be proud of winning a Cannes Lion!” Which, without a doubt, is true. But what really makes us happy about achieving these awards are the ideas behind these fantastic campaigns.
You see, these aren’t your everyday beer commercials, nor were they intended to be. In the case of Budweiser Zero and Aguila, these are campaigns that came to life thanks to a bigger, company-wide commitment: our Global Smart Drinking Goals, designed to change social norms, consumer behaviors, and our own business practices to contribute to the reduction of harmful consumption of alcohol globally. AB InBev has committed to invest 1 billion dollars towards social norms marketing… precisely what these Cannes Lions Winners are! In many ways, it is an experiment… as no other company has tried something like this before. It is a serious commitment both in terms of financial resources and time.
Beyond the sheer creativity and thought that our teams put into these pieces, an idea I want to share with you today is the concept of shared value. When I tell my friends that some of my work revolves around educating consumers on the harmful consumption of alcohol, they oftentimes ask me, “Cata, but why would a beer company want to invest towards an initiative that could potentially affect consumption?”
In traditional business thinking, I suppose this makes sense. We’re often taught to never, ever, under any circumstance – affect sales or consumption. That’s where Shared Value comes in. Shared Value refers to the idea that a business will always be more sustainable in the long run if it pursues initiatives that benefit its stakeholders and shareholders: ideas that better society and business at the same time.
Although as a company we had previously been working on responsible drinking, Smart Drinking, at its core, was born after World Health Organization (WHO) issued a public call to policymakers and businesses globally to pay attention to the rise harmful use of alcohol. We didn’t take that as a threat, and decided to do more, invest more, and be part of the solution. To create an impact we realized we had to work smarter, not harder – because social norms are what can truly change society in the long run.
If you analyze these campaigns, we never tell our consumers “don’t drink our beer” – We teach them how to consume our products responsibly, and give them alternatives that don’t include alcohol, but still taste the same. AB InBev invests a lot of resources towards how we communicate these types of messages with our consumers – This includes working with experts, universities, and independent researchers. The idea is to generate brand trust and affinity – all while changing our consumers’ behavior and implementing evidence-based initiatives. Corona won this year’s internal Smart Drinking Campaign competition at AB InBev, and I cannot wait to see it play out in the real world!
Our Smart Drinking Goals, were in fact, recently reviewed by Georgetown University, who concluded that our initiative is “ambitious in design, geographic scope, and scale of intended impact,” noting that it “surpassed traditional CSR efforts, and aspires to create shared value.”
A Cannes Lions is great. But a Cannes Lions for a Smart Drinking Campaign is huge; it shows us that our efforts are having the results we intended, and bring eyes towards our brands in the right way.
We want to build a company to last and to do that, we need a society that’s responsible with us, not against us. In the long term, a business’ prosperity and sustainability depend upon the community’s wellbeing – and in the end – the community is who grants any company its social license to exist.
Cheers and congratulations to all the winners! You are examples of what it means to bring people together for a better world.