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Stella Artois is doing it's part to bring water to the developing world

image courtesy of Labatt Breweries of Canada

image courtesy of Labatt Breweries of Canada

Words by Christopher Metler

Having risen through the ranks of brand marketing since 2001—from retail representative at Unilever, to head of marketing for Labatt Breweries of Canada—Todd Allen, Vice President Marketing, Labatt Breweries of Canada, is something of a ‘career marketing man.’ In other words, he isn’t a Johnny-come-lately who believes the business of promoting and selling products boils down to heavily curated daily social media concepts. No, Allen is the genuine article. He’s an innovative marketer with extensive cross-functional business experience in developing and implementing strategies to build national brands, delivering profitable growth and driving market share.

With so many different standout beer brands under the Labatt umbrella, how are they marketed to different lifestyles?

We essentially have the number one brand in each of the beer and ready-to-drink segments, and we’re the number two in cider. So we have an amazing portfolio of brands as you know, from Corona, Bud Light, Budweiser, Stella Artois and Mill Street to Palm Bay, Okanagan, and more. But the challenge becomes this: how do you deploy the portfolio in the most relevant way, to meet all the needs of Canadian drinkers? At Labatt, we really build the positioning of our respective brands to align to the values of consumers. Then we determine what their need state is. You know, the emotional and functional benefit of what they’re looking for from an alcohol beverage. And then, ultimately, what is their occasion segmentation.

How early in the marketing process do you need to identify whom it’s being promoted to?

It’s critical. You need to understand who your primary consumer segment is. This refers to what their relevant demographics are, what their lifestyle is, what their passion points are. Everything starts with the consumer. Really comprehending the Canadian landscape and how we segment it is very, very important. And then understanding the evolving trends year-over-year—which means staying ahead of the curve to anticipate where the shifts are happening to be able to be poised for the future.

With over 15 dedicated years in the industry, what does being a ‘career marketing man’ mean to you?

The first thing is you are constantly learning. You have to stay humble. The market is continually evolving, so you need to have that passion for understanding where things are going. I think a couple principles for me are: one, the consumer is the boss. Without a really rich consumer insight for all your brands, you really have nothing. Staying close to where things are happening with our consumers across Canada is vital. The second thing that’s always stood the test of time to build successful brands—you really have to build brand purpose. You need to bring meaning to people’s lives and make them better. So at Labatt, we’re always striving to deliver brands with meaningful purpose. I think the third is you have to be relevant. You have to be aware of the emerging media and technology, and be available to have a conversation with your consumers and fans on a one-to-one level, versus the old model of traditional advertising, which was very much a one-way message. The fourth thing I’ve learned is you’re nothing without a great team. You need to surround yourself with the best people.

Tell us a little bit about the Buy A Lady A Drink campaign.

It was all about developing a purposeful campaign for Stella Artois. We have an amazing partnership with Water.org and its co-founders, Matt Damon and Gary White. I’m very excited to be able to bring the promotion to Canada this year. We are launching it in a really big way. Really we’re committed to help end the world water crisis. Over 663 million people around the world still lack access to water, which is a fundamental human right; and the crisis disproportionately affects women. So we’ve made a commitment globally by 2020 to help provide 3.5 million people with access to clean drinking water. You can purchase a limited edition Stella Artois chalice for $15.99 and we’ll provide five years of clean drinking water to someone in the developing world. It’s available at BuyALadyADrink.ca, as well as LCBO outlets across Ontario. This is a great cause that we’re committed to. We can truly be the generation that ends the water crisis.