Today’s episode featuring an unusual category for us to have on the show but an incredibly interesting one.
ABInBev is a company that celebrates life, especially key highlights like parties, sports and entertainment, and it describes its mission as creating “a future with more cheers”.
The business brews and sells a diverse portfolio of over 500 beer brands includes global names like Budweiser®, Corona® and Stella Artois® which are sold both direct to consumer and of course to trade partners in nearly 50 countries worldwide.
Joining Let’s Talk Loyalty today to share AB InBev’s focus on innovation and loyalty in the Mexican market is Raul Sandoval, Head of Digital Products and Loyalty from AB InBev in Mexico.
Paula: Welcome to Let’s Talk Loyalty, an industry podcast for loyalty marketing professionals. I’m your host, Paula Thomas, and if you work in loyalty marketing, join me every week to learn the latest ideas from loyalty specialists around the world.
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Hello and welcome to today’s episode featuring an unusual category for us to have on the show, but one I’m sure will be incredibly interesting for you. AB InBev is a company that celebrates life, especially key highlights like parties, sports, and entertainment. And it describes its mission as creating a future with more cheers. AB InBev brews and sells a diverse portfolio of over 500 beer brands, including global names like Budweiser, Corona, and Stella Artois, which are sold both direct to consumer and of course, to trade partners in nearly 50 countries worldwide.
Joining me today to share their focus on innovation and loyalty in the Mexican market is Raul Sandoval, Head of Digital Products and Loyalty from AB InBev in Mexico.
So Raul, welcome to Let’s Talk Loyalty.
Raul: Hello, how are you?
Paula: I’m extremely well. Yes. Yeah, you’re looking amazing on screen here with me, so if anybody gets the chance, you must check out on YouTube as well, where Raul has all of the wonderful branding and a very professional headset for our conversation today, all the way from Mexico.
So Raul, as you know, we always start this show asking our guests about their favorite loyalty programs because as industry professionals, of course, it’s super interesting to know what you admire in your own world. So let’s kick off with that question and tell our listeners what is your favorite loyalty program or more than one, I think you might have.
Raul: Of course, Paula. At this moment, I have two loyalty programs. The first one undoubtly, it is Tap It. It is our consumer loyalty program in Colombia. And it’s because it’s the first loyalty program thoroughly focused on the fact that thanks for your beer purchases, you are going to be rewarded with brand experiences, beer and other stuff, and it is highly valuable for the consumers.
Paula: Of course.
Raul: And an addition of that, it’s very really native integration with our B2B ecosystem. So also, our clients win points and reading points, yes, for those purchases and those things that they are made in today.
Paula: Okay. Okay. And let me just even before, I know you have a second one for me as well, rule, but I think there’s, well I think there’s a lot of unusual things about what you’ve just introduced.
First of all, rewarding the purchase of alcohol I know is something that’s very difficult to do. It sounds like you have mastered it within all of the obviously proper guidelines and ethics and making sure that it’s appropriate. So just tell us a little bit, for example, you mentioned experiences, so in the consumer program you mentioned, because I know there’s a B2B program and B2C and the B2C rewards are around beer experiences. Am I correct?
Raul: Yep. In fact, we made this turnaround because as you mentioned before, we are not able to give beer freely to purchases. So we have a very strict rules, face to consumers, but also the part of these rewards are not just beer. It’s the brand experiences. For example, concerts.
Paula: Concerts? Nice.
Raul: We give VIP concerts, we give football tickets for matches for 3D experiences or for merchandising. So in this way, we can expand our engagement with the consumers for selling beer. And also the consumer can redeem a very amount of points. Very lower amount of points, sorry, for beer during the month. These points have casualty. So at the end of the month, you will have x number of points in period of time. And that’s very cool for the consumers. We have a very great acceptance on that. And at the end, we get first party data.
Paula: Of course. Absolutely. And we’ll get into the details. So is that for all of your different brands? Of course Raul, I know AB Inbev of course, to some of us is an extremely well-known brand name. But it’s the beer names themselves that have the most fame and fortune, of course.
So, even before we get into your second favorite loyalty program, would you mind just maybe introducing AB InBev as a company? I think you’ve more than 500 brands of beer, just to help us understand this particular program and exactly you know, how many of your brands it’s recognizing rewarding behavior for.
Raul: Yeah, for sure. AB Inbev is the biggest beer company around the globe. We are on, we are owners of the main core beer brands. For example, Corona. It is the more bigger brand around the world.
Paula: It is. Yeah.
Raul: We have Budweiser, Guaramá – Brazil. Quilmes in Colombia. Aguila and Poker, sorry. Quilmes – Argentina, Aguila and Poker in Colombia, etcetera. So with Tap It, we are using this program as an umbrella for all the brands.
Paula: Okay. Great.
Raul: So the brands who are participating into the reward programs. They put some marketing campaigns for their brands through their websites or through media, to acquire fresh party data. Then we give to the consumers some kind of promotion. They go and buy the beer and the endpoints, and then they bring in the passport our experiences.
Paula: Okay. Got it. Great. And does Tap It mean anything? Does it translate to English as a word or is it purely a brand name?
Raul: It’s a purely brand name in the background. The definition of Tap It, it is because when you open a beer, you make that sound Tap It.
Paula: Okay, okay. I love it.
Raul: So that’s the main reason. That’s reason in Colombia.
Paula: Super fun. Okay, well thank you for that explanation. And tell us then you have a second favorite loyalty program as well, Raul. Tell us about your other favorite one.
Raul: This moment, it is Aeromexico Rewards formally it was Clear Premier here in Mexico.It’s a coalition program. And with this new version launched a few months ago. They significantly change and improve the speed that you earn points. And within points, mainly for plane tickets. So you can start traveling more faster than you used to without the necessity or the need to improve your spend into your credit card. That’s amazing. That’s amazing.
Paula: Okay, so it’s a broader ecosystem beyond the co-brand; is that what you’re saying?
Raul: Yeah, it’s a coalition program.
Paula: It’s a coalition program. So, yes, I would’ve, come across Club Premier as, as a name of course, super famous. And I can only imagine, in fact, we must try and get them on the show at some point. Given just the size of Mexico as a country, any airline that’s reinventing their program definitely has to be one that we explore. So they’re broadening it to coalition. You have much faster ways to earn and sounds like something that you’re finding lots of new ways to engage with. Amazing, amazing.
So tell us then, Raul, tell us about your own loyalty career. Because I know you’ve done some amazing work in lots of different sectors before getting into the beer business, which I’m guessing is your favorite. But, tell us how did you get here?
Raul: How I get here, I start as a loyalty consultant, business slash business consultant exactly 10 years ago. I came from financial markets, insurance, mailing and banking. And when I start making consultancy for loyalty programs. I start for one in particular for Grupo Carso. It was called Punto Sinfin, Endless points.
Paula: Endless points. Nice.
Raul: That was a coalition program with Grupo Carso Telcel, the most bigger, eh, telephone line in Latin America.
Paula: Oh wow. So telecommunications. So mobile phones, with a points based program.
Raul: With a points space program. Also with Grupo Posadas, the biggest hotel chain in Latin America. And another kind of partners, supermarkets group, etcetera. So I was at the beginning, the commercial one who was in charge to go and sell the program. And start bringing new users, at the beginning.
Then I start moving into a strategy data. And I moved to Grupo Posadas to run the referral programs for vacational clubs. That was a lot of five years of my life.
But also, in the meantime, I have a lot of clients mainly banks sent. Santander, Citibank. And I was running the strategy for those, for the programs in the banks in that time. From my experience came through banks, through retail.
Would they been better by, I also did a program for a B2B initiative in 2014 as a vendor. So when I start working with ABI, my understanding of the business was a little bit more faster and more clear because I had the experience before.
Paula: So you, you did some work from the outside bit of consulting, while you were doing your, loyalty strategies for the various banks, for the hotel. I understand you, you spent quite a few years, developing that hotel loyalty program. Is that right?
Raul: Part of the Fiesta Rewards, not the whole strategy. But I was responsible to integrate the core program, with all the programs in the vacational clubs. And this was very naturally because the language between vacational club and loyalty programs are points.
So we start to iterate between how the loyalty users earn points to increase or to buy a vacational membership. And improve their vacation with the actual usage of their points.So they can bring us more members for both sides. Recommending our brand loyalty, brand credit card with Santander.
And also if they recommend the credit card, they have a discount for the purchase with double or triple points in their first six month of vacations to use our programs. So that will be that was very interesting because we face a new way to create loyalty with your own baseline.
Paula: Oh, I see. Okay, okay. So tapping into the advocacy of the vacation clubs to bring more people over to the hotel program. Okay, got it. Fantastic. So lots of questions I have, so first and foremost, I guess the data was perhaps non-existent when you started because there wasn’t a loyalty program direct to consumer, as I understand it. So you have launched this TAp It program, as you’ve explained, and that, is working in Mexico as well, or is that just in Colombia?
Raul: No, it is just in Colombia.
Paula: Just in Columbia.
Raul: For Mexico right now we are working on the new version. I can tell you a lot, but the thing that I can tell you this new program will be globally. And will be face a lot of problems that we face with the consumers today. In course in terms of engagement, frequency usage. So we are with this, with all these learnings that we have in Colombia that the program in the US and in other parts of the world.
We are creating new ways to expand and new ways mainly to connect with the heart of the consumers. Avoiding the restrictions that we have today. Because at the end, as a responsible company, we don’t want to increase our consumption percent. We want to increase our engagement and the love with the brands.
Paula: Okay, okay. Love of the brand. That’s quite a nice objective. I don’t hear a lot of loyalty professionals having that, I’m gonna say luxury actually, because that to me is really the ultimate, loyalty objective is to have love of the brand.
So that sounds like something that AB InBev takes very seriously. And then, whichever beer you drink, I guess you’re gonna drink whatever suits you, be it alcohol or non-alcohol, but it is the brands that you’re looking to connect with consumers for.
Raul: The love with the brand. The brand and the consumption occasions, why? We are a beer industry. So we are present in important moments for all the, for each person around the world. When you finish the school and when you have your college degree, you celebrate with a beer. When your boy has been born, you celebrate with a beer. In Christmas you celebrate with a beer. So we are a company of celebration. That’s part of our vision for the next 10 year, for create a future with more cheers.
Paula: Oh, nice. I love it. Yeah.
Raul: So in this way, we are trying to connect on the emotional part first. Because today, the connectivity the, that the connectivity that we have today, sometimes as persons, we miss that part of connection with the emotional part.
Paula: So, of course, of course. Indeed. And I guess with any business like yours, FMCG, of course, has the exact same challenge where, you know, the consumer is buying from a retailer, and I will be keen to hear exactly what your B2B thinking and proposition might be.
But I guess, it sounds like you’re teasing us that you have something that’s coming soon, which is a bigger proposition for direct to consumer. Tapping into that data collection piece and creating those beautiful experiences, as you say, moments of cheer rather than moments of beer.
Raul: But for example, in terms of B2B, today we have BEES. BEES is a marketplace platform platform where we are selling not just only our products. We have huge partnerships with AAA companies around the globe. And we are helping all these kind of box points of consumptions, nearly stores, supermarkets, etcetera, to bring them in a more easily way a lot of products.
So these customers that, and these clients that we have, we earn them with points. So we’ll start making a huge frequency RFM model a bigger recency through this platform. And we are, give them some part of this loyalty right now. We can give them through these some kind of loans if they, or credit if they also need it. So this, despite increase not just the love of the brand. A company who are really interesting in, to help you to grow your business. That’s our main vision.
Paula: Okay. what kind of scale is that at Raul? Is that a new proposition or is that in market a few years already?
Raul: No, we start just before the COVID situation in Dominican Republic that was the pilot. And today, BEES it is almost all Middle America, 11 countries.
Paula: 11 countries. Yeah.
Raul: I know that at the end of this year, beginnings of the next one, will be in the UK. And this information is also public. We published that on last December. And we are looking to expand the same business model into the South and South Africa zone. And probably into the China market. Probably.
Paula: My goodness, Raul. Yes. And tell me then, technically Raul, you’ve built this marketplace. It’s obviously, as we’ve said, B2B, so it’s retailers, what kind of propositions you’ve mentioned points, are you also building in the experiences?
Because when you mentioned football, for example, I think in Mexico it’s one of the most passionate points for people in Mexico is to have experiences like getting to football games. So, do you have an experiences proposition or is it just points? Tell us about the whole proposition for your wholesale partners.
Raul: Oh, for the wholesale partners, we have some experiences, for example Copa Oro, that it’ll be a tournament that we are running right now in the US with different countries. We give them the opportunity to win a full travel paid by ABI to that experience, not just for getting the sales spot.
Also, it is for expand and promote the product. So in that way, it is a technique that I used to call Member That Member, where if you are a pack owner, you tell to your friend, hey, I got these benefits from ABI. You should do the same to get these benefits. So the technique is very easy. We have a sales representative. They go and promote this application. Today we are selling directly through the BEES app.
Paula: Okay, cool.
Raul: And that’s all.
Paula: Oh wow. Okay.
Raul: And the propositioning points. It would be for, it could be for experiences or discounts on the next purchases so they can improve and grow their businesses. That’s the core.
Paula: Wonderful. Yes. And how do I spell BEES? Just because I know people listen to this show and sometimes in audio it’s difficult to capture a brand name, but if we want to link to it in the show notes Raul, is there a website we can look at? I know we won’t be able to log in of course, because we’re not wholesaling your beer, but, how do we actually spell it?
Raul: B E E S.
Paula: Like bees. Amazing.
Raul: And you can access through the app. You can download the app for IOS and Android platforms. That’s directly.
Paula: Amazing. And what about the entree then, Raul? Because I know obviously wholesale is quite different in industry terms now. I’ve never worked in the either FMCG or in the alcohol industry, but do you have any propositions for whether it’s hotels or bars or you know, people serving beer on trade?
Raul: We are into this. The app, it works for trade, on trade, traditional markets, and wholesale.
Paula: Amazing. So all of the B2B segments are controlled within BEES. And then as you said, coming soon, you have the consumer proposition, yeah. Amazing.
Raul: Yeah, yeah for Mexico.
Paula: For Mexico. When is the consumer program?
Raul: For Mexico, by the end of the year, it is planned to launch.
Paula: By the end of 2023, yeah. Super, and as a content creator, you know, it’s probably not surprising that I’m the one particularly aware, I would say, of the lack of attention sometimes that the communication piece gets when loyalty programs are being built.
And it doesn’t really matter which consumer segment, and it’s not because we don’t want to. I think it’s just because, well, sometimes I think it sits within a different department, so there can be a brand team that controls communications, for example, certainly in programs I’ve worked on, rather than the loyalty program owner themselves. And then I think it’s just by virtue of the complexity of managing the earning and burning parts of the program, that sometimes the communication doesn’t get sufficient attention.
And then, pretty much every market research I’ve ever done, the education, the awareness of the loyalty program, the understanding of how to really use it and how to benefit is very often lacking, no matter how mature the program is. Would that be fair to say for you as well, Raul?
Raul: And I’m going to use some words that the CEO of DOTS shared with us in your program a couple of weeks ago, I guess a month ago. When you are a public company, you are in the eyes of everyone. For ABI in Mexico and in every country that we have presence, that’s our essence. We are part of the life of the country. Not just for the consumer. We are part of life of the country. We are owners of one of the most powerful and most important brands around the globe.
So if we are not, put some attention in those kind of details, we were failing in our mission. So we need to be very careful. For example, with Tap It, we work very closely with the local government to have these regulations on hand. So the consumer can use a program. In terms of B2B, but it’s very different because we are not promoting the alcohol consumption by any kind of marketing. We are promoting our sales and it is a different channel. That’s in my opinion, that’s the main difference that we need to look as a company when you are public and when you are not public.
And I guess, and I feel very identified with that example that, our kind of DOTS mentioned that, that they, yeah, because they expand and they go public after in less than 10 years. So for me, in terms of loyalty, that needs to be one of the points that you need to take care of.
Paula: Of course. Absolutely. And you’re right. I mean, if you’re incentivizing behavior with your B2B audience, it’s not incentivizing consumption. Actually, because it’s not them obviously doing the consuming. Whereas with those direct consumers, you have all of those extra legal challenges and verification and validation.
So I know certainly in Ireland, where I’m from, it hasn’t been something that I’ve seen done in any clever way, with one exception. Actually, I’m just remembering it. A fun kind of campaign that I saw that I will actually, I will link to in the show notes if anybody’s interested because it did win a Cannes Lions award, but it was essentially where we have a lot of rain in Ireland, Raul.
And I think some of the, you know, kind of international beer brands were all, you know, doing lots of advertising and marketing with the imagery on the beach and drinking a cold beer on your vacation. But in Ireland, of course, it’s usually a cold and wet. So there was a very fun campaign, and it was done in partnership actually, with the industry, with the on trade, where essentially every time it rained, there was an app and you could track it and you could get one free beer. So it was very well done.
And it was just super funny and of course it was fully controlled, but it won a lot of awards just because it recognized that beer is that time of the moment of cheer that you talked about, for example. So it doesn’t really matter about the weather, you know, and in Ireland, you have to celebrate regardless. So, super fun example.
Raul: Thanks for that and the appreciation. But that’s, I guess that’s the magic of this industry. How we can, how we need and how we will integrate in the nearest future. And how we want to be remember as a brand—not just as a company, as a brand. And sometimes as marketers, forgot that part of our really true mission, trying to connect.
Paula: And I think that the thing that surprised me as well, Raul, when we first connected, was the fact that you have innovation in your job title. Because when I think about beer, and I did see the statistics, you know, AB Inbev has 13,000 years of history making beer. So something shouldn’t change. Of course, the product is obviously the product, even with all of the different brands, but why is innovation so important from a digital perspective? Of course, in the products and the flavors, I totally understand that there’s changing tastes, but you are very passionate.
I really sense about innovation. I saw on your LinkedIn, for example, that you’ve won or been recognized, I think by Fast Company as being one of the Most Innovative Companies that was recognized. So winning awards for innovation as a beer brand is not something that I would’ve expected. So tell us about this importance of digital.
Raul: In digital, and again, given my opinion, in digital and for all kind of effort in every business vertical. For me, it works for make things different or make things better. If you want to create something new for me, that’s a whole different process. So innovation in terms of digital ecosystem. Example, the Día de los Muertos, in Day of the Dead in Mexico. It is one of the most impactful and traditional campaigns historically in this country.
Paula: The Day of the Dead?
Raul: Day of the Dead. Día de Muertos.
Paula: Oh my goodness.
Raul: It is. It is a celebration in Mexico.
Paula: One day during the year, is it? Or is it the day where somebody you love passes?
Raul: It’s a couple of days. It is a couple of days during the weeks, and this tradition games came from the Aztecs. It’s a million year tradition. I don’t know if you saw the movie from Disney, Coco.
Raul: I recommend strongly that you watch the movie.
Paula: I love Disney.
Raul: Because you will understand the Day of the Dead tradition in Mexico. So in that order, Cerveza Victoria had been created in the last 10 years. A name of being this, the beer of Mexico, La Cerveza de Mexico. Why? Because it is tradition for Mexico. In Mexico we say that if you are Chingon. Chingon means the best. You will break all the stoppers or blockers that you will face as a person, as a culture, as a country. So in this campaign, that it will be this year by October.
We launched an AI integration, artificial intelligence. So when you scan the cempasúchil flower, that it is the flower of the season, of the Day of the Dead. And when you scan, this flower will launch you into our DTC ecosystem or DTC platform that is called TaDa.
But this innovation burn through the website. So we put ads. We send the consumer to the website to improve our organic ecosystem. They review all the experiences that the brand launched for that season. But you need to register for the way to register, and the way that we acquire the data from the consumer, it was through the experience, not through the reward.
For me, that’s a kind of innovation that we are doing today. We need to start thinking what, not just what, the consumers want, what would be most useful for the consumers. If this integration of this kind of integration technologies, innovation will be used if the innovations are not used for any kind of effort.
In my opinion, every company that are making innovation without any purpose, don’t do it. You need to cut it and cut it quickly, because if not, if you are not the enough much, if you don’t have enough maturity to do that, you will spend money, talent and resources, if necessary.
So the innovation in digital need to be every day. We need to start looking around what is happening, not just with our competitors. We are looking into example in, into video games, for example.
Mario Bros launch a couple of months about the movie. They’re great. Our wall experience through QR codes amazing around the globe. We are looking for music experiences, what Netflix could bring us to integrate our beer ecosystem or Amazon or Apple, or any kind of brand that is making something that could change the world. I guess innovation, it’s on I need to be on that part.
Paula: So anywhere there is scale and innovation, as you said, whether it’s a passion point, like a video game or music, or whether it’s an ecosystem like an Amazon or a Netflix or any of these platforms, you guys are looking for synergies. You’re looking for connections. You’re looking for opportunities to make partnerships with the mother sound of it.
Raul: In sometimes in sort of, in some strategies yes. In others, we go and start swimming.
Paula: Create it. Yeah.
Raul: And we create it from the scratch.
Paula: Okay. Which it sounds like you did for this one that you mentioned, which is the Day of the Dead. And as you said, the consumer literally they scan. Is it a natural flower? You mentioned a flower. They have to scan a physical flower?
Raul: Yeah. A physical flower or an image of the flower.
Paula: Oh, an image.
Raul: Or an artificial flower. We receive the help of a couple of partners who bring us this tech, and they help us to create the idea.
Paula: Nice. Okay.
Raul: Also, in partnership with Ogilvy. Ogilvy was our creative agency in that moment and working as a team, we create this bunch of experiences with the sneaker brands sold also.
Paula: Yes, I did see. Was it Vans that you’ve been partnering with to put one of your famous, I think it’s a Colombian beer that’s been put onto a brand of sneakers, is it?
Raul: We have been working with a lot of partners. One of them is Vans, for example. In Mexico we have a local brand that, it’s called PANAM. I guess it is the most iconic sneaker brand in the country. They design us a collection just for Day of the Dead. We also have been, with partnering with Levi’s for Corona in another initiatives. So we try to evolve and innovate based in a purpose, not just in a trend.
Paula: And just so I fully understand, are these for rewards, for example, or are they purely for partnerships that go on sale in retail channels as essentially branded merchandise to create more love of both products together?
Raul: We create both in both sides. Because again, we are not looking loyalty just as points program. We are looking loyalty as a part of our way of living. Loyalty is in everywhere. And loyalty is the most easier thing than you can get away from any kind of consumer, client or even person.
If you fail in some parts, the loyalty or the expectation as a consumer, it is not the same. You can go or, or leave a brand for price. And you go back after. But if you fail with the purpose of being loyal with the consumer, the client and the consumer will go away forever. And they will change.
Paula: Yeah, yeah. That’s true.
Raul: That’s part of where we want to improve. And that’s why, I was mentioning at the beginning, the love for the brand.
Paula: Yes. Come full circle, huh? Back to the starting point. And as you were explaining that Raul, I think what I’m understanding is that for AB InBev, it’s definitely not transactional loyalty as so many of our, you know, discussions are around points and, you know, purchasing and all of those type of behaviors.
But for you, it’s much more around emotional loyalty. As you said, driving the love of the brand. So I guess my obvious question I should ask is how do you measure that? How, what does success look like for you?
Raul: For consumer, it is more easier because we are measuring through registers. For example, we have a goal by the end of the year, we have a target. And we used to call here we have a Dream. So the Dream, by the end of the year, for example, it was 2 million of new sign up members. That’s the target.
But we are working not to get 2 million. We are working to get 4 million in the next 18 months. How we need to start bring these new users? Give them the facility to use the program and start earning points, reading the points. So they can move on and start bring us new members. That’s one of the KPIs. The second one is, one of my favorites. The only active user. The famous now.
Paula: Yeah, of course.
Raul: Because this cohort in my experience, making tons of programs, mainly for banks if you have the transaction, check. But if you don’t have the frequency, you have a really huge problem into verticals. Probably It is the communication that the one-to-one communication that you set up with the user. Or probably your offer. It’s not strong enough.
Paula: It’s not compelling. Yeah.
Raul: So you need to measure that and look that as a bible to start making new strategies and to understand the behavioral of the use. And the third one obviously is if the promotions that we put on the market facing for consumer was for example, in terms of sale. Or when in terms of sale, if we put two per one in terms of sales. How many sales we achieve versus how many sales the user earn per, sorry, how many points the user earn? Because not necessarily the user or the a hundred percent of the users registered their points.
Paula: Of course.
Raul: So with that little detail, we start measure if the campaign was successful in terms of sales, in terms of loyalty and in terms of engagement. Because probably we were success or we were succeed in three terms, but not necessary. We grow in terms of loyalty or in terms of sale. Just the campaign was successful. That’s the main points that we are and the least we are looking for and we are measuring right now.
Paula: Okay, so from your side, in terms of innovation and loyalty, it is very much around the commercial impact. Super, clear. And it sounds like you have brand colleagues as well who also manage the love of the brand. The advocacy, the brand perception and all of those type of things, which of course all flow out of the type of work that we do as loyalty professionals.
Their software, I guess, and harder to measure, but also important to measure, I think as well in terms of how people say they feel about brands. Especially, you know, I can imagine you coming into this role, as you said, the start of a pandemic, difficult time. I believe in fact that, am I right in understanding that Mexico did continue as normal, at least in terms of, you know, having, you know, the stores open for to purchase alcohol and those kind of things?
I know some markets like South Africa, they did close the off licenses. So there was a lot of upset, I think, in those markets. But did you guys continue to operate as normal, at least in terms of takeout? for, at the beginning?
Raul: At the beginning of COVID, we suffered the same thing that South Africa and other countries.
Paula: Oh, really?
Raul: And that’s a really great example of innovation. Because we were not able to sell or distribute alcohol products and not just forbid, it was for the industry. And we innovate with a couple of products when it is, Victoria Chingones. It is a beer without zero degrees of alcohol.
And also, we have Corona Cero that it is a beer with zero grades of alcohol. Exactly when the Covid starts on April of 2020, we received instruction from the local government that we were not able to sell. We were close almost five months. It was a lot of time.
Paula: Oh, that’s long.
Raul: So we start, improve this kind of beer. To put into the market, to keep to the consumer, a beer, to have a moment of relax, but also all the alcohol that we process to create the beer.
And,another stuff. We start making water, alcohol for hands. And we give as a social corporate. We give this into communities to help the government, to hospitals, etcetera. So for me, that pivoting is part of the innovation that we need to create as a company and as marketers.
Paula: So you started selling water for the first time because of the pandemic?
Raul: Not selling, I would not say that we are selling more. We just not stopped selling. Because we were able to give to the consumer a new product.
Paula: New product.
Raul: That it related to alcohol. So we were very smart to take the opportunity. Yeah, of course. And to see this opportunity as a vision of growth and also to try and nurture a new product that we don’t know in that moment if it was successful launching or not.
Paula: And how did it react in the market?
Raul: Tons of contrary sentiments for in one side, Hey, thanks for the beer. At least it’s a beer with a local, it’s a beer. Yeah, but in the other hand, we have, come on, this is not a beer. This is just water. But at the end, we have different markets different segments in the market.
So we were, our main learning is that, there is a segment outside that they want those kind of products. Brothers, they healthy, all the people who made sports, even rock stars. Even rock stars.
Paula: Right. I’ll take your word for it.
Raul: Want some beer?
Paula: The option.
Raul: And they have the option. And there’s people that, hey, this is not my product. I don’t feel properly during this one, but that’s their decision.
Paula: Of course. Yeah, exactly. And in times of crisis, like the pandemic, if it’s at least a psychological experience of drinking beer, even if it’s not the normal product that they might have wanted. Then, it makes perfect sense, as you said, to make the most of that opportunity and at least create that new category, and grow it because we’ve seen it all over the world. There is this increasing, need and expectation for health reasons and lots of other reasons. Of course. And that there are alternatives, and I know the core ingredients for beer are actually quite healthy. So it’s, it’s really only the, the alcohol itself that, people might want to, to remove. Everything else is, is really good. So, so lots of innovation going on Raul. Amazing.
Raul: Yeah. And a lot for Corona.
Paula: Okay, well listen on that note, we’ll have to make sure we stay connected. I always find it amazing how quickly the time comes around and it’s time to have a new conversation with somebody who’s been on the show like already a year before.
So you have already teased us that there’s lots coming up for AB InBev later in this year. So that we can start to get a sense of how loyalty is increasingly a priority for the business, especially in the market in Mexico. And hearing about things like the UK. Of course, taking on some of your initiatives and platforms, and ecosystems is incredibly exciting. So we’ll be watching and waiting to hear the stories as they grow.
So I think that’s all I wanted to ask you today, Raul, from my side. Is there anything else you wanted to mention before we wrap up?
Raul: I have a really great time. I’m just talking to you.
Paula: Okay, good.
Raul: But I guess that we are changing the world in loyalty given all the podcasters, these kind of programs. Because again, loyalty for me is not points. It is what can we improve to make and to do a better work. So thank you very much, Paula for doing this. I also encourage you to continue, and please count on me for every initiative that you get.
Paula: Amazing. Thank you so much, Raul. I know you’ve been listening to the show for quite some time. I really love to know who my loyal listeners are and of course, for sharing your story with our global audience.
So Raul Sandoval, Head of Digital Products and Loyalty for AB InBev in Mexico. Thank you so much from Let’s Talk Loyalty.
Raul: Thank you very much, Paula.
Paula: This show is sponsored by The Wise Marketer, the world’s most popular source of loyalty, marketing, news, insights, and research. The Wise Marketer also offers loyalty marketing training through its Loyalty Academy, which is already certified over 500 executives in 38 countries as certified loyalty marketing professionals.
For more information, check out thewisemarketer.com at loyaltyacademy.org.
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