As demographics become key, AB InBev partners with Epsilon

For Anheuser-Busch InBev, the role of the consumer has never been more important.

The brewing juggernaut has long played an iconic role in the marketing space, creating memorable ads for its brands Budweiser and Stella Artois, to name a few. But as marketers move to deliver personalized content at scale, many realize having strong creative campaigns just isn’t enough.

And AB InBev is trying to do just that. Earlier this year, the brewer announced its global partnership with Epsilon in a bid to gain deeper understanding of their customers. This move will shift the company’s focus on marketing by platform and place an emphasis on marketing by the consumer's preferences, wants and needs, informed by first- and third-party data sources.

By using Epsilon Digital, the brewer can connect data gathered from consumers to create more meaningful connections that drive better outcomes – all with privacy at the forefront. Sitting at the helm of customer relationships, as opposed to blanket marketing, will drive insights between data and media, ultimately unlocking growth opportunities at a global scale.

Luiz Barros, AB InBev’s global VP of data and media, told Ad Age this new partnership will help push better segmentation, resulting in customized messaging to the right customers at the right time.

“It’s about who we want to talk to and where they are instead of what is the channel and who is available there,” he told the magazine.

This announcement comes amidst a bigger shift in the marketing space as major platforms like Google and Apple deprecate identifiers, forcing marketers to focus more on their first-party data. Part of AB InBev’s strategy is introducing new loyalty programs for customers to drive opted-in first-party data collection.

Data deprecation is a broader issue that has many marketers scrambling for a solution. For years, marketers and advertisers relied on third-party cookies to drive strategy. While this data was beneficial, it’s always been inherently flawed. Third-party cookie data only represents browsing sessions on devices—not the specific person using the device. They’re also domain-specific and can be deleted, meaning they can’t accurately identify people over time.

Despite their flaws, they proved popular. According to a 2020 survey from Epsilon, 80% of marketers said they relied on third-party cookies. Moreover, the same percentage of respondents said they were not confident they would have a viable data solution once third-party cookies went away.

The message is clear: Identity-based, first-party solutions are essential for brands to survive.

Historically, first-party data has been out of reach for CPG brands—especially those in beer, wine and spirits, like AB InBev. Under the U.S. three-tier alcohol distribution system, alcohol brands cannot directly sell to consumers. Barros said at a recent AdExchanger panel these restrictions have pushed companies to operate their media buying the same way they did two decades ago.

To be innovative, AB InBev needed to find better data that allowed them to understand buying patterns on an individual level versus a net approach. Barros used the example of knowing what types of beer a person drinks: Inferred demographics might push certain beers toward certain people, but imagine if data could tell a clearer story. A person who is a frequent Bud Light drinker occasionally buys Michelob Ultra. Should the brand continually send them Bud Light ads, or can they correlate behaviors with their Michelob buying habits and create richer, more meaningful messages?

“How can I find ways to understand my customers more deeply to offer the right brand at the right time?” he said at the panel. “When I can use sizable purchase data to understand shoppers, for example, I can understand how that person bought that brand.”

Innovative data solutions solve for two problems:

  1. Brands can create pathways to obtain data ethically—where it's based on consumer opt-in and consent
  2. And brands can use it to bolster the customer experience overall.

Barros told Ad Age this new partnership will create a stronger foundation between AB InBev’s various brands and the people who drink them.

“It’s going to give a single view and an end-to-end unique audience that we can leverage, measure [and] understand consumers, from insights to creative content,” he said.

With Epsilon as its partner, AB InBev will also create a new “global data center of excellence” which will be headquartered in the US and drive the brewer’s data and audience strategy, which Barros has been tapped to lead.

At Epsilon we remain committed to providing first-party data solutions to our partners. Epsilon PeopleCloud is built on our robust CORE ID, which uses stable customer identity and AI to deliver personalized messaging to customers at the moment they’re ready to purchase.

As the world changes to one driven by technology but inclusive of privacy, brand positioning has never been more essential. For CPG brands like AB InBev, that means developing rich customer relationships in ways they never have before.

“We need to be able to leverage better data to do consumer segmentation,” Barros said in the panel discussion. “We want to make sure we have more valuable data from providers like Epsilon, so we can target the right people with the right message at the right time—and with the right brand—to ensure that we can acquire new consumers and reacquire consumers we already have.”