SABMiller marketer Luis Ruben Ortiz, a judge at this year’s Festival of Media LatAm Awards, explains how the brewer is looking to connect with young urban adults in the region.
It has been a tricky time for brands operating in Latin America. The economic and political crisis in Brazil has put the brakes on what should have been a period of rapid growth. However, the hit to commodity prices has worked in the favour of some advertisers, including those providing “affordable luxuries” such as beer.
Luis Ruben Ortiz, portfolio and brand strategy director, Latin America, at SABMiller tells M&M Global about how the company is adapting its marketing approach to reach young urban adults across LatAm.
M&M Global: What is your favourite piece of work of all time that has emerged from the region?
Ruben Ortiz: “A few years back, when the Latin American economy was booming and growing, there was a sense of empowerment and progress among our consumers. These were the years when Brazil’s economy had pulled millions of people out of poverty, when Mexico began to see real GDP growth, the Caribbean was thriving and the Andean region was finally showing signs of recovery after turbulent years.
“I think that the brand that best leveraged this moment was Johnny Walker. The brand reached out to Latin American consumers and joined in celebrating this new found feeling of progress and empowerment. The brand went out of its way to localise its global positioning and creative (Keep Walking) to connect with people in Latin America. It was beautiful to see.”
How has the regional political and economic climate affected the industry?
“Most of our markets are commodity driven. When commodity prices are up, our economies flourish and local currency strengthens versus other global currencies. This in turn makes durable goods less expensive to import. During these times people enjoy more employment and higher wages, and if they curb spending their daily or weekly disposable income they can purchase things that once had been inaccessible, like refrigerators, washing machines, televisions and mobile phones etc. This is when it gets difficult for ‘affordable luxury’ categories like beer.
“The inverse can be said when commodity prices go down, like they have been during the last 12- to 18 months. Although employment and wages may go down, consumers tend to go back to the things they enjoy and find comforting. If managed well, these are the times when the beer category flourishes and can grow; the challenge is how to do this in a sustainable way that does not drop if conditions change. This can only be done by building iconic and trusted brands in the hearts of consumers.”
What are the biggest industry trends that are impacting your use of media in your strategy?
“Traditional media is still very important for our consumers and we see that it is still their primary source of entertainment and information. That said, we know the emerging media in the digital and mobile worlds are being adopted quickly especially among younger urban consumers. This creates a huge challenge for our brands, especially those that want to connect with the young urban adult.
“We know the emerging media in the digital and mobile worlds are being adopted quickly especially among younger urban consumers”
“We have had to hold that challenge to our creative and media agencies to make sure that we are creating compelling content for our brands that can travel through the traditional and emerging media. Our teams have responded well to the challenge, but I sense we have a lot more to learn and a lot more to do.”
Have you noticed any changes in consumer drinking habits and how has this impacted your strategy?
“There have been no big changes in consumer behaviour in the last 12 to 18 months, but we have seen a trend in the last three to five years. Consumers, especially those markets or regions that are hot and humid, prefer easy to drink or lighter beers. These beers are usually less bitter, have lighter colour and are less filling. We responded to this trend by driving brands like Miller Lite, Aguila Light, Pilsener Light, Barena and Golden among others in those markets.
“We have focused our efforts in driving mix gender occasions where traditional or classic beer sometimes does not fit. We have also focused these brands on being modern and inclusive. As a result we have seen strong growth for these brands year on year.”
How has competition inspired you to do great work and what SABMiller campaign has been your favourite?
“In most of the markets in which we operate we are category leaders, so we benchmark ourselves outside of beer and look at total beverage and beyond.
“I think that the mobile phone carrier industry is very active and creative on our region. We tend to draw a lot of inspiration from things we see them do as well as the big beverage brands like Coke. They have really been creative in straddling both traditional and emerging media.
“My favourite SABMiller campaign is Poker’s ‘Entre Panas’. A very creative and fun way to create content that connects with consumers and has legs on many media fronts.”
What benefit do you gain by being a judge in terms of your day job and passing on knowledge in your team?
“Being a judge in the Festival of Media will do two things for my day job and my team. One, it will give me exposure to what should be the best creative work being done in Latin America, giving me a benchmark with which to be able to gauge the work being done with our brands in the region. Secondly, it will give me examples of what best-in-class creative work is being done so that I can share it with my team for inspiration and their own benchmarking.”
What are you hoping/expecting to see on the Festival of Media LatAm Awards shortlist this year?
“I am hoping to see lots of creative ways to drive brand engagement that translates in to brand love. In an age where LatAm consumers still hold on to traditional media for most of their daily entertainment/source of information, and where digital and mobile increases the way they interact with each other and with brands, I look forward to seeing which brands and teams have been able to create brand engagement and love while straddling both traditional and emerging media.”