“We happen to be a marketing company that sells beer.”- William Hickman, Vice President and CIO of Anhesuer-Busch (Field, 2000)
For years, companies have been relying on market research, data tracking, and data warehousing to help create marketing strategies. Marketing managers rely on this data to spot opportunities and problems and try to stay ahead of the competition.
Anheuser-Busch (AB) could arguably be called the “King of Data Collection” and much of the organization’s recent success can be credited back to their emphasis on data gathering and data sharing. AB is now the leader in the alcoholic beverages industry with 48.4% of all beer sales in America in 2006 (www.anheuser-busch.com).
The secret to their superior data mining and collection is BudNET, an online system that connects wholesalers, retailers, and other business partners by allowing them to gather data on sales, products, customers, and competitors. In addition, the advanced technology allows AB to link to other data sources which include portable transaction computers carried by delivery personnel and bar code scan information. The company pioneered this new high-tech strategy and positive results are driving competitors to re-evaluate their own strategies.
Key Success Factors
Getting wholesalers and retailers to agree to collect the data at the front lines
The success of AB’s BudNET could greatly be attributed to the organization focusing on fine-grain data and quick distribution of results. The best way for them to capture the detailed information was to request the responsibility be handed over to the front line, delivery people, wholesalers, and retailers. The buy-in from the wholesalers and retailers was critical to implementing the process changes, and became effortless when the distributors would benefit from access to this data as well. This new way of thinking has resulted in AB’s superior marketing effectiveness.
More reliable exposure to demographic environment
Utilizing BudNET and its other technology data sources, AB has been able to maintain control over various demographic environments within and outside of the United States. The system’s robust capabilities have proven useful in data gathering related to ethnic markets. BudNET is used internationally and allows AB to become cognizant of growing populations of various ethnicities and be able to study their specific wants and habits faster than any other competitor. Recognizing the fact that China is the largest beer market in the world (World’s 10 Largest Beer Markets, 2005), AB created a strategic partnership with Tsingtao Brewery Company Ltd., China’s leading brewer, and acquired Harbin Brewery Group, Ltd., the No. 5 brewer in China (www.anheuser-busch.com). AB has also expanded its business in order to reach out to the Hispanic community, one of the largest growing demographics in the country. In 1993, AB acquired 50 percent of Grupo Modelo creating an exclusive import and distribution agreement over Corona products. Finally, in recognition of the large presence of Hispanics in the US, AB began offering Tequiza in 1999. As a result of its extreme popularity within this demographic, Tequiza became the most successful new-product introduction in company’s history.
Keeping up with consumer behavior and quickly changing lifestyles
BudNET and bar code scan data can also be credited for helping to track consumer buying behavior influenced by cultural, social, and personal factors. AB’s marketing team searched for relationships between their products and lifestyle groups and identified a need for a low-carb, full bodied beer to complement the developing trend of low-carb diets. In 2003, AB introduced Michelob Ultra and marketed it to the aging baby boomers by advertising in AARP magazines. It did not take long, however, for...