Nielsen: The Baseline For Convenience Is Higher Than Ever

After 16 months of consumers relying on connectivity and omnichannel shopping experiences, the baseline for convenience is higher than ever. Now as the world reopens, retailers will be tasked with meeting people where they are. According to new Nielsen data, that will require a seamless blending of on- and offline strategies rather than an emphasis on one over the other. 

According to the firm’s June 2021 online survey, among all the ways consumers purchased goods, click-and-collect saw the highest increase since before the pandemic. In-store pickup, for example, increased from 25 percent pre-pandemic to 38 percent in June while curbside pickup rose from 16 percent pre-pandemic to 36 percent in June. 

Still, click-and-collect won’t be replacing traditional forms of shopping anytime soon, according to Nielsen. The act of ordering from a local store and having it delivered grew from 22 percent to 32 percent, in-store shopping increased from 78 percent to 82 percent and online ordering and shipping on sites like Amazon grew from 70 percent to 77 percent. These figures suggest that retailers will have to remain flexible and nimble in order to meet consumers’ heightened demand for convenience.

Nielsen’s data also show that aggregate in-store shopping behavior in the US changed very little between the second half of 2019 and the second half of 2020. Aggregate in-store grocery shopping trends changed even less, Nielsen notes, even as online grocery shopping activity increased. 

Nielsen found that 98.5 percent of US households had gone grocery shopping in-store in the week prior to responding to the survey in the second half of 2019. That figure remained largely unchanged through the second half of 2020. 

Mall shopping, on the other hand, has been decreasing steadily since the survey was released, from 83.6 percent of US households having gone mall shopping within three months of responding to the survey in the second half of 2019, to 75.6 percent in the second half of 2020. 

Online shopping at any store and for any service within three months, however, grew from 71.9 percent to 76.2 percent while online grocery shopping done within the past seven days grew from 1.7 percent to 2.1 percent during the same periods.

Retailers should continue to focus on delivering convenience especially as more people start to leave their homes. A study conducted by Nielsen Audio found that in June, 90 percent of respondents said they’re ready to resume pre-COVID activities, and several indicated that they’re increasing their weekly activities.

For example, grocery store shopping went from 70 percent in April 2020 to 84 percent in June 2021 while driving went from 67 percent to 77 percent. Hanging out with others and dining out witnessed the most drastic increases of 41 percentage points for each, while spending time indoors and ordering take-out remained roughly the same. Non-grocery shopping jumped from 27 percent to 48 percent and clothing shopping went from 6 percent to 30 percent. Café visits and planning or booking a vacation rose from 7 percent to 25 percent and 3 percent to 15 percent, respectively.

Essential retailers that have had frequent interactions with consumers will likely remain top-of-mind among consumers. But as Nielsen notes, now is the time for many retailers to re-engage with consumers, especially those that pulled back on their marketing and ad spend last year. These retailers should think about ways to re-introduce themselves and build brand awareness.

What We’re Reading—Week Of August 2nd

What you need to know for the week of August 2nd, 2021.

The Postpandemic Board Agenda: Redefining Corporate Resilience

McKinsey & Company

When asked about this year’s agenda, board directors at the most adaptable boards imply they’re shifting away from overall resilience as a topic—the share citing it has decreased 20 percentage points.

Why it matters: According to McKinsey’s survey results, these boards will spend more time looking at the types of risks that can test a company’s overall resilience, including geopolitical and macroeconomic risks (up 19 percentage points since 2020), political risks (up 15 percentage points) and climate-related risks (up ten percentage points).

Three Marketing Lessons From A 19th-Century Horse


In the 19th century, Wilhelm von Osten owned a horse named Hans. Von Osten trained the horse in math problems, answers to which Hans gave via tapping his hoof. The story of Clever Hans provides a valuable lesson for modern-day marketers—if you’re using digital platforms to nurture leads and generate new customers, you should be in a continuous state of experimentation, testing and adjusting based on your learnings.

Why it matters: Other lessons to be learned from Von Osten and his horse include drawing simple, likely conclusions about marketing data before drawing accurate ones and avoiding confirmation bias when studying your data.

Moving The Needle On DEI

Harvard Business Review

Shelly McNamara, head of equality and inclusion at Procter & Gamble, advises those leading diversity, equity and inclusion efforts to get clear on what they aspire to create or do and determine who the change agents will be. To ensure this strategy happens on the ground, McNamara emphasizes the importance of leadership behavior, accountability, and capability and culture.

Why it matters: P&G aims to have its US organization be represented by 40 percent of multicultural employees. And globally, it aspires to have equal gender representation at every level. McNamara notes that for some time, P&G has been doing work for areas such as the LGBTQ community and people with disabilities. It launched a new data platform that expands the data fields so that employees have the opportunity to self-identify, an update that will help P&G determine where it has challenges and opportunities to address.

What Brands Should Know About TikTok’s Ban On Sponsored Crypto Content

Ad Age

TikTok recently issued a ban on influencers promoting cryptocurrencies and cryptocurrency-related financial services through branded content. The ban lumps cryptocurrency, pyramid schemes, bail bonds and get rich quick schemes under the “All financial services and products” category. However, TikTok’s policy permits ads related to the “exchange, management, or investment of virtual funds,” so long as the ads comply with applicable law.

Why it matters: Brands could face suspensions or get locked out of TikTok’s advertising platform if they violate the branded content policy. When sponsoring content, cryptocurrency brands should immediately review, revise and update their influencer agreements, and/or consider other platforms.

Why Jack In The Box Hosted A Comic-Con Afterparty On Discord

Marketing Dive

To engage attendees of this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, taking place digitally for the second consecutive year to the pandemic, Jack in the Box hosted an afterparty called “Jack’s Late Night Discord” on Discord.

Why it matters: The event saw a total of 5,560 members—more than five times Discord’s benchmark for members on a branded community—and 7,664 users across the entire weekend. In addition, the event generated more than 27,000 messages via several elements.

How Marketers Are Preparing For The Holiday Season

In 2019, Thanksgiving Day ecommerce sales reached $4.13 billion. This year, eMarketer expects the figure to hit $6.21 billion as a growing list of retailers including Walmart, Target and Best Buy announce Thanksgiving Day store closures.

EMarketer’s latest report explores holiday marketing trends through interviews with executives from Banana Republic, Norwegian Cruise Line and more about their holiday shopping learnings and how they’ve adapted to consumers’ evolving digital behavior.

Even with the ability to shop in-store this year, retail ecommerce sales are projected to grow and comprise 18.9 percent of total holiday retail sales – an increase from 17.5 percent last year–according to eMarketer’s data. 

Retailers offered online promotions earlier than usual last year in order to maximize holiday sales, and the digital push will likely set off an earlier holiday season again. Amazon, for example, postponed Prime Day to October, causing other retailers to introduce promotions at the same time, thereby expanding the traditional holiday shopping period.

According to Banana Republic’s vice president and head of stores, Jen Mullen, last year Banana Republic focused on its online presence and ensured customers could shop for every family member in a single online session. This year, the retailer is focused on utilizing online services to get the customer back to in-person shopping. Mullen tells eMarketer that 2021 will see more one-day deals and more excitement generated around weekend activities to entice people to visit brick-and-mortar locations.

Guitar Center’s senior vice president and chief marketing officer, Jeannine D’Addario, said the music retailer is meeting market demands this holiday season by offering “more than just the instrument” to individuals who are purchasing an instrument for the first time. The retailer engages in meaningful dialogue with customers across its social channels with the understanding that the musical journey is about sharing, talking about it, gaining insights and learning from others, according to D’Addario.

The National Retail Federation originally estimated that total consumer retail spending in 2021 would reach $4.33 trillion, a 6.5 percent growth. In light of increased consumer spending, NRF raised their estimate to between 10.5 percent and 13.5 percent YoY growth. According to Ali Haeri, MNTN’s vice president of marketing, this heightened expectation comes with greater competition. He said that advertisers must add connected TV – with a focus on direct-response performance – to refine their strategies, differentiate themselves from the competition and deliver strong ad performance. 

Haeri’s suggestion to invest in CTV comes as 49 percent of streaming television viewers prefer a low-cost ad-supported mode and as Apple’s iOS 14.5 update reduces the effectiveness of audience targeting and measurement.

During its 16 months in port, Norwegian Cruise Line launched a holiday campaign called “Break Free” to address consumers’ desire to “break free” from the pandemic. Isis Ruiz, the company’s senior vice president and chief marketing officer, said Norwegian will be leaning into that approach even more in Q4 2021 with a big Black Friday campaign as people start socializing and planning vacations.

In addition, Norwegian’s 2021 holiday campaign will focus on activities travelers can look forward to, including reunions, planned vacations or the planning of future vacations. Online streaming and visuals via social media will be two core elements of the cruise line’s holiday campaign, according to Ruiz. 

eMarketer spoke with the Boston Red Sox chief marketing officer Adam Grossman to learn how the team engages with fans during the holiday season and the offseason. Given that the World Series ends as the holiday season begins, Grossman notes that the Sox must tailor their holiday messaging to capitalize on the celebration depending on whether they’ve won or lost. 

Keeping fans engaged during the offseason is another story – content creation is at a minimum as they focus on “Gift of Sox,” a campaign that involves thanking fans, granting wishes and having fun with the community. During the pandemic, the post-season also saw cookie-making lessons for families. In addition to its focus on service, the Sox team highly prioritizes digital marketing and personalizing the experience for each fan. The Christmas at Fenway event, for example, is the first time tickets go on sale for the following season, giving the Sox an opportunity to offer loyal fans choice seats and games.

Marriott’s Brian Povinelli On Post-Pandemic Consumer Travel Behavior

The pandemic proved the most challenging year in Marriott’s 93-year history, as it ended 2020 with an annual loss of $267 million—the second largest after its 2009 annual loss of $346 million. While hotels shuttered and countries closed their borders, travel wanderlust grew stronger as consumers longed to get away both locally and abroad. Due to pent-up demand for travel, Marriott is hopeful that rising vaccines will boost a rebound. We spoke with Brian Povinelli, senior vice president, brand, loyalty, and portfolio marketing, Marriott International, to learn more about the company’s new global “Power of Travel” campaign, how consumer behavior changes are affecting its media placements, how current occupancy figures are shaping up and more.

If there’s been one key pandemic learning so far for Marriott’s portfolio of brands, what would you say it is?

There’s been cultural learning [about] just how critical travel is to our personal well-being, to a greater sense of community and toward encouraging more openness and acceptance on a global scale. We didn’t realize that and took it for granted in normal times. But after being stuck in your own home for a year, I think people realize the power of what we deliver as a hospitality company that enables some of that cultural well-being and healing.

From a marketing lens, we asked whether we need to be much more nimble in our marketing strategies, in the way we approach putting our message in the market. During the pandemic, we had to pivot [messaging] almost weekly… and have an ear to the ground on customer sentiment. Sometimes the message was dictated by government regulations and opening and closing markets. Most brands would define that strategy as nimble.

We’ve pivoted to create a nimble strategy that will continue even past recovery of the pandemic, especially because customer sentiment is changing on a much more frequent basis today than it did even a couple of years ago.

Are there any other consumer behaviors that Marriott has observed over this past year that you will incorporate into your strategy moving forward?

Staycation for sure. One, I think going a little further afield would be the explosion of the road trip. It was partly driven by the fact that airlines were out and we saw a huge movement to road trips and people flocking to more remote, outdoor destinations like the national parks. 

Then this whole concept of “work from anywhere,” a new phenomenon that we’ve seen that continues strongly today—people realizing that if they didn’t have to go into the office and could do everything through a Zoom-type platform, that they could relocate for a while. And especially with the younger generation who are less tied down with families and other commitments. A huge amount of people were using our hotels and homes and buildings as a place to work remotely for weeks or months on end.

How has marketing budget allocation changed based on these behaviors?

Yes, I would say we have. With the whole underpinning of being nimble, we are still utilizing occasion-based viewing on linear TV. So take something like the NBA Finals or the Olympics, we will utilize those platforms, but we’ve also shifted significant amounts of our investment into the streaming platforms. Not only because that’s where viewers have shifted, but also because there’s a lot more real-time data that we can get back from those platforms. We’re testing some shoppable ad units where people can literally click on the ad unit on the streaming platform, view more information and book a trip from that. So I think you’ll see us leaning more into connected TV OTT and the broader digital platforms, as well as experimentation in the social platforms.

We did our first foray into Tiktok and we’ve done a unique partnership with Pinterest. The amount of travel and wanderlust that’s gone on with consumers over the last 18 months has been taken to a new level because they were deprived of that opportunity to get out and see different parts of the country or the world, with the effect that they’ve been much more engaged with travel content on social platforms.

So we’ve been leaning into that and trying to put out inspiration to then lead to user-generated content and help amplify our message. It’s been quite successful over the last couple of months. And in this campaign launch specifically, we’ve seen that user engagement because people are so hungry for inspirational travel stories and images.

Marriott Bonvoy’s recent Power of Travel campaign includes many firsts for Marriott. Walk us through the brand’s thinking behind the partnerships with influencers and the shoppable Hulu ads.

We’ve tried to find influencers who grounded their storytelling on the idea of wanderlust. Some have a large following and some have more niche followings, but they’ve all got a very engaged audience in this one topic. This isn’t the first time we have worked with influencers, we’ve been doing that for years. But I would say it is definitely the first time that we’ve used Tiktok as a platform. We thought it would be more grassroots and authentic than us creating content and just pushing it out as more of an advertisement on that platform.

The shoppable ads are definitely a first. The goal came from the insight that we are seeing our booking window over the last 18 months shrink significantly. We’re seeing a lot of travelers literally booking and staying within 24 hours, almost like it’s become much more of an impulse purchase. And I think it relates to vaccine roll-outs and people hitting that point where they’ve had their two weeks of post-vaccine quarantine and then say to themselves, “That’s it, I’m going to leave tomorrow and go somewhere.” That short booking window has led us to look at some of our media placements a little bit more as an impulse buy.

So think about the grocery store. You go down the checkout aisle and there are all of the candy bars and the gum and the magazines that you just grab even though you didn’t plan to buy that when you went in. We thought we could have a similar dynamic here where if people were watching a show on a streaming platform and then they were introduced to our marketing, engaged with that ad, and go book that trip, whether it’s for the next day or the next week or the next month. And where before, people might spend three or four weeks and look at 20 or more websites in order to make the decision of where to go and stay, now we’re seemingly seeing people willing to do it on a whim and with a lot less research than they had prior.

Marriott’s recent social listening research saw a year-over-year uptick in searches for one-of-a-kind stays. What role has social listening played in Marriott’s strategy in the past year and is there one tool in particular that has proved especially useful?

A few years ago we implemented a new capability within Marriott called “M Live.” It’s a group that focuses on social listening through the worlds of data and creative. They put out polls, scrape social sites, and collect data from other third parties that we then turn into segments, use for specific targeting and to identify emerging trends. 

That is where we’ve focused over the last 12 months as things have changed so dramatically week in and week out. We’ve leveraged those analytics and that social listening group within our organization to help guide what markets we should be going after. For example, we saw in the US, markets like Arizona and Florida open much more quickly than those in the Northeast or other parts of the country. So we were able to validate that there was that interest through these tools and the data, and then we were able to craft messaging specific to those markets or those trip types.

How is Marriott responding to the finding that people are looking to experience more one-of-a-kind stays?

We’re looking at that in two ways. One is working with properties to create those unique experiences. Luckily, we were doing that pre-pandemic. So it was ramping up the availability of those types of experiences and doing a little bit more of that. You will likely find that in a luxury or upscale hotel and with brands like Westin or the Ritz-Carlton. And even our select-service hotels that are in more rural destinations and those by national parks have put together more experiential-type packages. We even formed a partnership with the national parks where customers could use their Marriott Bonvoy points to buy annual park passes. So that was one way. 

Then the other is a real continued focus on growing our collection of brands. We have about 450 independent hotel offerings that a lot of people weren’t aware of. Those tend to be your smaller, more boutique, more experiential-type properties; again, a destination that connects you much more closely to the local destination and cultural experience. We opened 70 new properties in those collections this year. So continuing to fuel that pipeline and look for conversion opportunities and new growth opportunities in that segment.

What are some of the updates Marriott has made to quell travelers’ concerns around cleanliness and face-to-face contact?

We sprinted very quickly to elevate some of the contactless opportunities. Mobile Key is one that we really accelerated and are now at over 4,000 properties, and that allows you to check-in via your phone, skipping the front desk entirely. 

We’re also piloting a check-in kiosk in several of our hotels in New York City. Think about how airlines have had travelers check in at the airport kiosks. It never found its way into the hospitality space, but we felt that in this environment that was another option where people could engage with a kiosk and minimize the contact they might have while checking in or out.

So those are some of the new initiatives that we either accelerated or are piloting during this period. And then the cleaning protocols—we already had very stringent cleaning protocols in place pre-COVID. We just elevated those and made them more public-facing with hand sanitizer in all the public spaces. 

The customer response has been great. Mask mandates are the one thing that has been a bit tricky for many businesses and industries to navigate because they became political, but we just stayed within the CDC guidance and followed their directives.

Beyond cleanliness, how has Marriott’s portfolio of brands responded to other consumer trends spurred by the pandemic? For example, I read that some Westin properties introduced recovery stations in response to people’s heightened focus on self care. 

It gets back to a little bit of the social listening and data that we were looking at during this period. Wellness was one trend that was significant. Wellness was compromised all of a sudden with the pandemic so it became a much bigger focus and people were stepping back and re-evaluating their lifestyles in a lot of ways. So we asked how we can elevate our wellness experience given that we built our whole brand positioning around well-being for the last 10 years. This was a great opportunity to take that foundation and introduce a new initiative all-around recovery. 

So through the partnership with Hypervolt, we put up a new station built around recovery within the fitness centers. That’s one example of a “work anywhere with Marriott Bonvoy” strategy where we’ve created a specific package around that wellness dynamic. We rolled out different levels of packages. For example, we implemented day passes, which you couldn’t get prior. To do that, we re-engineered our booking portal to be able to accommodate that and also to accommodate extended check-in and check-out hours. Then there was a stay pass, which was an overnight stay that came with other amenities, snacks and meeting supplies if you needed them, for that “working from anywhere” environment. The last was the play pass, which was built around this blend of leisure and business where your family is at the pool while you might be working in the room.

According to the company’s Q1 earnings, in Marriott’s largest regions, the US and Canada, occupancy started the year at 33 percent in January and reached 49 percent by March. Do you have any current occupancy figures you can share?

I can see demand definitely varying by market, but we’re encouraged to see a strong rebound. US and Canada occupancy for May was at 55 percent, so definitely seeing continued momentum. I have a couple of other examples here—in Greece, bookings were up 6 percent versus the same two weeks in 2019. So they’re actually outpacing 2019 numbers. And then we’re also seeing special corporate demand, at about 50 percent of 2019 levels, which is a significant uptick from where we were a month ago. So we’re seeing positive momentum on both the leisure side, which is leading the recovery, but also on the corporate or B2B side.

The leisure market is poised for a rebound, but how does Marriott plan to acclimate to the drop in business travel?

We’ll have to see how it continues to play out. I would say we are optimistic that there will be a notable recovery in business. We are, like I said, seeing special corporate demand, and we’re seeing people start to get back to the office, and I think we’ll see a significant boost there. 

So it’s going to be about keeping a pulse on how this hybrid work model plays out. Despite not seeing the same amount of business travel that we’ve seen pre-pandemic, we think there could be a different dynamic happening where because of hybrid work models, people now have several days free where they could take a long weekend away. They could do Friday and Monday working remotely, and then take the weekend for leisure time. We’ll be keeping a real close eye on how consumer behavior evolves as we continue getting higher vaccination levels.

We’ll also have to see how the corporate workplace and these hybrid work models play out. But I think we will see a lot of people taking longer trips. Even over the holidays, there’s this dynamic shaping up where instead of taking a week off, if you have the flexibility to work remotely, you could be taking a month off.

Tell us more about Marriott’s recent partnership with Uber. 

Our partnership with Uber was great because we had been looking for ways to strengthen engagement with the rewards program. A big pivot we’ve made over the last year is positioning Marriott Bonvoy as a travel marketplace that has a loyalty program and offers 30 hotel brands, homes, villas, tours, activities and partnerships like with Uber.

The idea behind partnering with Uber was that traveling through a destination means you need a rideshare service to get to and from the airport or your hotel. They go hand-in-hand. And with what we’ve seen through the pandemic with the proliferation and success of things like Uber Eats, this partnership is just another opportunity to keep people engaged with our platform through earning and redeeming points, and, in some ways, to keep them engaged with us when they’re not in a hotel. So it’s all about bringing added value to the overall program and your interaction with Marriott. 

How is Marriot approaching the first-party data conversation and delivering personalized experiences to customers while protecting their information?

Like every company, we’re navigating all of the data privacy laws and remaining compliant with all of the rules that are out there. The nice thing for us is that with over 150 million members, we have a lot of first-party data. We obviously go through the right protocol to get the marketing message to the people who are engaged and have agreed to receive it.

The more reasons we can give people to engage with Marriott Bonvoy, not just for hotels, but for things like the partnership with Uber or tours and activities, or dining out options, the greater ability we have to grow from 150 to 200 million, 250 million members.

There are various ways that members can interact with us and varying degrees of information they opt to give. Some are more willing to share than others and will tell us directly what their preferences are, what they’re looking for. That helps us personalize the experience even more. Even if it’s just basic information like their name and the type of hotel they want to stay in, we can personalize their experience based on their history with us.

We’re also making efforts with the Marriott Bonvoy app. We launched a new update with a lot of new functionality, not only for contactless engagements but even for a road trip finder where you can see all of the hotels along your route and what they cost. So getting that type of engagement allows us to better personalize the experience and engage with people on that platform as well.

What’s one trend hotel marketers will need to embrace as they return to the next normal?

I’ll go back to build a little bit more on this idea of the importance of flexibility and nimbleness in your marketing strategy. I think that the trend that we’re seeing is that people’s behaviors and sentiments are shifting much more quickly than they have in the past. Social media plays a significant role in that because there’s so much access to information which can lead to quick shifts in sentiment or feelings about a topic or about a brand in particular. So there needs to be a focus on having your ear to that social sentiment through social listening and other data sources, and then having the ability to pivot your message and create many more versions of that message, and also doing a lot more A/B testing of what you put in market to see what’s resonating with people at any given time.

What We’re Reading—Week Of July 26th

We’re tracking the latest insights from various marketing and advertising publications. Here’s a rundown of what we’re reading for the week of July 26th, 2021.

Google Revenue Surges As Online Advertising Market Thrives

The Wall Street Journal

Google’s parent company Alphabet Inc. reported Q2 revenue of $61.88 billion, a 68 percent increase from a year earlier. Profit more than doubled to $18.53 billion and sales from advertising reached $50.44 billion—the latter representing a 69 percent increase.

Why it matters: Chief executive officer Sundar Pichai credits the strong results to “a rising tide of online consumer and business activity,” adding that digital publishers and YouTube partners earned more during the period than any other moment in the company’s history.

LinkedIn To B2B Marketers: It’s Time To Build Your Brand

Campaign Asia

According to a study from LinkedIn’s The B2B Institute and the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute at the University of South Australia, lack of brand awareness is a larger issue by four to eight times than brand rejection, particularly for smaller B2B brands. The study analyzed the buying preferences of over 1,200 buyers of business banking in the UK and business insurance in the US.

Why it matters: While 90 percent of respondents said they won’t reject a brand they’re unfamiliar with, most B2B marketers focus on lead gen strategies at the expense of creativity and brand building.

Cheesecake Factory Plans To Overhaul Its Marketing Capabilities

Restaurant Business

As part of a marketing overhaul, Cheesecake Factory will develop a loyalty program tailored to its hardcore customers, shift its database to a new customer-relations management platform and switch to a more “commerce-forward” website that’s expected to turn more casual visitors into order-placers.

Why it matters: Cheesecake Factory will execute the overhaul with the help of new ample consumer research following successful targeted campaigns it ran during COVID which drove sales and frequency.

As Coca-Cola Auctions Its First NFT, More Brands Are Entering The Metaverse


Coca-Cola is selling a series of four NFTs (non-fungible tokens) as a single asset, with proceeds benefiting Special Olympics International. The NFTs, created with Utah-based startup Tafi, include a pixelated version of Coke’s vintage 1956 vending machine; digital versions of the company’s 1940s trading cards and a “sound visualizer” featuring classic Coke sounds such as a bottle opening and a drink being poured over ice. The NFTs will be sold on OpenSea from July 30 to August 2.

Why it matters: Coca-Cola’s foray into NFTs is an extension of the collectibles it’s been selling in real life for years. On the company’s website, a limited edition Norman Rockwell set of four Coca-Cola prints goes for $400. According to Coca-Cola senior director of global digital design, Joshua Schwarber, NFTs allows the company to reimagine its assets through unique, multi-sensorial experiences.

Transforming The Future Of Work—For The Better

Ad Age

According to the World Economic Forum’s 2020 “Future of Jobs” report, about half of all employees will need reskilling by 2025 due to technological advances, and some 70 percent of employers plan to offer the resources necessary.

Why it matters: A large majority of online-based employers are considering making nearly half of their workforce remote, which means new or existing roles will become location-agnostic. As a result, the potential pool for candidates will expand significantly. Plus, given so many applicants are either advancing their skillset via online certifications or classes, there will be more metrics by which to assess candidates than previously.

Anheuser-Busch InBev’s Jodi Harris On Why Culture Is More Important Than Creativity

Anheuser-Busch InBev won big at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, taking home 22 total Lions—the most ever in the company’s history. But the road to AB InBev establishing itself as a creative powerhouse was no small task. It started a few years ago when the company rebuilt its internal culture around real consumer needs and the power of creativity. Overseeing that process was Jodi Harris, the company’s first-ever global vice president of marketing culture and capabilities. We talked with Harris to learn more about how she and her team implemented that culture shift, how the company empowered its employees, what it’s learning via social listening tools and a trend CPG marketers should embrace post-pandemic.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What does your role as global vice president of marketing culture and capabilities entail?

In 2017, I was the head of US consumer insights and at the end of that year, my boss Marcel [Marcondes] and I discussed revamping something in the US market where, at the time, creativity wasn’t thriving and our employee engagement was quite low. We were going through several different transitions at that time. You could tell people weren’t feeling valued.

So we created something called Marketing Culture and Capabilities. In order to get to the capability building, you have to start with creativity, so we started implementing programs in the US which had never been done before. We didn’t have a town hall for marketing. We did something instead called the “Spark Session,” which was about building confidence, not just in the whole marketing team, but also the senior leadership team, myself included. Slowly but surely as we started opening ourselves up to things, more and more people wanted in. Because it wasn’t everybody at first, I’d say maybe a third of the population were early adopters. By the end of the two, three years, everybody wanted in. The results went from 62 or 64 in engagement to an 80 in two years. It was nuts.

When you believe in the people around you and you’re going to invest in them and their capabilities, then the world is yours. We started feeling that momentum and then we decided to take it global. 

Pedro [Earp], who is good friends with Marcel, is now my boss. We all believe in this so much that not only is it a global role, there’s now a global marketing culture and capabilities team. Every market has at least one person who’s dedicated to driving capabilities, creativity and this culture shift that we’re going through. We actually realized that we’ve got a lot of internal experts. 

What was it like scaling that culture change globally? 

We have a responsibility to make sure our employees are equipped with the right tools and resources to go further. The first thing we did was partner with the General Assembly to get the resources with our online programming that we can start to embed into our marketing team. It wasn’t just the online content. We actually supplemented it with twice-monthly Zoom sessions, and because we’re able to grant live access to these sessions and also the online program, everybody participated. It was incredible. We had over 1,500 people around the world dialing in to these sessions or re-watching the videos online. 

The other great thing is, we never really understood where we sat versus other companies but through the General Assembly program, they have a benchmark for CPGs. We were falling slightly below the CPG average in the beginning of the year where we assessed ourselves. One full year after the program, we surpassed average and we’re on par with digital natives now. So again, another sense of pride and courage is that the teams took these tools and ran with them so fast. That’s where we started getting a lot more intellect on just how to use data properly and how to set the right KPIs.

It’s not just these vanity measures. We also built our own programming as a part of our old marketing excellence program. Now we have everybody in our marketing academy. It’s been a huge, huge success for us.

Did the company launch any programs during the pandemic to strengthen employee bonds? 

The creativity and agility from working together during the pandemic was game-changing. We created a global cross-functional task force to run our agile program called “Ideas of Good.” It was designed to engage our colleagues all over the world to generate, pitch and execute ideas to address critical community needs during the pandemic.

Many of these needs were common around the world, which made our teams excited to learn from each other and empowered them to quickly adapt for action in their markets. Within the first 90 days of the pandemic we launched 100 new initiatives to help people.

Our Tienda Circa program is a beautiful innovation that was born from Ideas for Good. It supported small business owners with the technology to deliver beer and other goods in an effort to stay open during the pandemic. Never before have we seen the power of ideas from our own colleagues make a real difference in people’s lives.

What is AB InBev’s takeaway from winning the most Lions this year in company history?

This year’s Cannes results for AB InBev really solidified the power of our culture. We have a true culture of ownership, and we saw that come to life over the past year. Our teams never gave up. They delivered their best work because they’re invested in the work and the people it impacts. I’m so proud of what we accomplished together.

The actual journey started seven years ago with our previous CMO who created an internal awards program called Creative X, which we still run today. It’s just gotten so much more powerful and has been a great proxy for all of the other festivals. One example of this is Tienda Circa, which was an incredible win for us at Cannes this year. In fact, it was our first Grand Prix for our internal agency draftLine. It was also the first time that creativity pushed beyond marketing and really brought a commercial aspect to it. It solves a real need that you’re not going to find in a research report.

How has draftLine been impacted by the evolving needs of the company’s marketing teams amid the pandemic?

The pandemic validated our internal creative agency. Starting in 2019, we brought our creative center in-house to stay more connected to consumers and move at the pace of culture. We saw this in action during the pandemic as circumstances changed from one day to the next. draftLine allowed us to stay reactive to, and in some cases anticipate, these shifts in consumer needs and behavior. For example, in the first eight weeks of the pandemic, the US team worked on 500 pieces of creative, and they’ve launched over 30 campaigns so far during COVID-19.

Part of AB InBev’s success is rooted in listening closely to the consumer and leveraging culture as a primary source of consumer data. What tools are you leveraging to this aim?

In the beginning, we didn’t leverage social media in the right way. We had all our social listening tools, but it was really about what were the big trends and fads, and underneath all of that was a bevy of insights of how people are feeling and what they’re liking and not liking and the different dialogue.

One great example of this is the Natural Light brand. One of the team members was running the digital platforms and he started interacting with college kids—of legal drinking age of course—about Natty Light and about college life. One of the things that college students are worried about so much is student debt. Once we started conversing with them and speaking their language, we were discovering new terms. We’d find out what a certain word means. We’d say, okay, that’s the new word to use? Got it. That’s how we were interacting. We’d be one of their friends because we had to become part of their circle. That’s how you realize what’s really important to them. From there, we developed programs around college loans and paybacks. We had students send us their resumés and we’d post the best one on a NASCAR car.

That’s one bigger example, but how we stay on top of that is through really interacting with the consumer firsthand, whereas before it was always in focus groups or waiting for the quarterly brand health report to come out. We still all have that information because it’s important to have, but for us to get much closer to the consumer, we had to interact with them. In the US, we have a big online community with more than 6,000 people that we can interact with whenever we want. 

AB InBev is diversifying its outreach to attract more than just the male gaze. Has the change been effective? What are you learning?

Diversity and inclusion are priorities for the company and for the industry. There are a lot of wrongs that we’re correcting in the marketing industry, the inappropriateness of some advertising from the past. But that stays in people’s minds and it’s a mental asset you’ve got to try to break. We do that with more provocative angles in creativity to get people to think a little bit differently. There are a couple of programs that we’re really proud of, like the work that Budweiser has been doing to promote equality, and of course, the angle that we’re taking is in sports. 

In early 2019, we started a program where we re-corrected some advertising out-of-home from the 1950s to today. That was the first time we realized that people are responding to this, the industry is responding to this, this is interesting. This is actually a valid place where we can have a voice and we should have a voice because of the history. And at the time, Monica [Rustgi] was our first vice president of marketing at Budweiser ever. So it just goes to show you the changes you can make when you understand it.

Then it carried on like a hot fire. People started to understand that there really is a divide out there. We started educating people and started doing that with all areas of inequality. 

We’ve done some work with women in football in the UK. I think the Future Sponsor campaign was awesome. We’re really proud of it. It’s not this one-off campaign, it’s an actual program.

In terms of the brands and championing it, we still have a long way to go, but we’ve come a long way. In our Creative X program, it’s the awards, but it’s also our creative center of excellence. We have huge D&I requirements. For our council meetings, when reviewing the work or helping promote the work. It’s a very diverse group of individuals. We have certain standards where advertising doesn’t go out if it doesn’t meet certain criteria and that’s all fed into our D&I for the company. 

I’m very honored to sit on the D&I counsel for the company. As a woman, as a marketer, as an American, I feel like I have a unique voice in that—from helping to write the D&I statement that we put on as a company and some of the new regulations to working with the team to create new benefits packages. 

During the last 12 months, have you seen a change in the seriousness with which CEOs and CMOs consider corporate social impact?

At AB InBev, we’ve always been defined by our purpose to bring people together for a better world. That mission was certainly heightened during this time of crisis, but more than that, the pandemic showed us the true extent of the impact we make—farmers, bar and restaurant owners and customers, small businesses and more.

Our global program with Stella Artois is a good example of how we supported bars and restaurants with resources and infrastructures to bring people together again, safely. That impact inspired us all—at every level of leadership—to keep innovating and reimagining our business in the communities where we live and work.

Something our CMO, Pedro Earp, has championed is a shift in focus—away from creating ads, and toward building consumer solutions, regardless of the tool. It’s clear that social impact will become ever more ingrained in everything we do.

What’s one trend marketers will face or need to embrace as they return to the “new normal”?

I think one of the big changes that we’re seeing, and it’s a behavior change we’ve been seeing for a while, is the moderation trend, mainly for beverages. It’s awesome. It comes down to health and wellness, especially the younger generations that aren’t taking life for granted. It really is about taking care of our planet, ourselves, our communities. 

The value equation has shifted. We’re seeing it with our no-alcohol portfolio, with our low alcohol portfolio. You see it in the US with the hard seltzer market. There’s a shift that’s been coming for a while, but it definitely has been exacerbated by the pandemic.

What We’re Reading—Week Of July 19th

A look at the news and insights we’re sharing internally for the week of July 19th, 2021.

Is Every Marketer About To Quit?


According to a survey MarketerHire conducted among its more than 20,000 newsletter readers, 78 percent of marketers believe marketing will soon see great resignation and 48 percent personally plan on quitting.

Why it matters: One larger trend in the marketing industry driving the belief includes the creator economy. Many marketers can earn more teaching others how to market than they can at a full-time job. Another trend accelerating the great resignation is the freelance economy; on the MarketerHire platform, the highest-paid marketer in 2020 earned more than $300,000 whereas in 2019 he made $90,000.

Visa Rebrands For The Digital Economy


Visa has launched a global multi-year marketing campaign titled “Meet Visa.” In addition to a television commercial that will air during the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony, the campaign includes spots on digital channels and out-of-home placements showing people using cryptocurrency to purchase everyday items such as hats and using their phones to buy from small businesses. Visa also debuted a new logo featuring three horizontal bars in the brand’s signature blue, white and yellow.

Why it matters: Visa’s new campaign aims to reposition itself as an “engine of commerce” that “provides access to the global economy for everyone, everywhere,” according to Lynne Biggar, Visa executive vice president and global chief marketing officer.

Twitter Takes First Step To Give Marketers An Audit Of Its Brand Safety

Ad Age

Twitter will allow the Media Rating Council to conduct a pre-assessment audit of brand safety on the platform, and to audit audience, ad viewability and fraudulent traffic. Similarly, Facebook said it will partner with the Media Rating Council to independently assess its brand safety controls and content monetization policies.

Why it matters: When running ads on digital platforms in areas like Twitter’s timeline or Facebook’s news feed, advertisers want to know how often their sponsored content appears alongside offensive speech or disinformation.

Consumers Want Control, Not Ad Blocking, In Online Advertising

Ad Age

According to a new survey from Magna and Brave, 80 percent of respondents felt they didn’t get much in return for the online ads they saw, with 64 percent saying online ads interrupted their web experience.

Why it matters: Ad blocking may not be the solution to consumers’ frustrations, as 79 percent of respondents said the most appealing option would be to control the number of online ads they see daily. The former preference was more popular than other solutions, such as ads that tell a story or show previously searched products.

Chipotle’s Digital Sales Rose 10.5% During Q2

Restaurant Dive

According to Chipotle’s Q2 earnings call, the company’s revenue increased by 38.7 percent year-over-year, comp sales by 31.2 percent and digital sales by 10.5 percent. Digital sales produced $916.5 million for Chipotle during the quarter.

Why it matters: About half of Chipotle’s sales come from digital channels, which get a boost from its 23 million-member loyalty program and digital-only product launches like its quesadilla. The company’s digital sales comprise less of its overall sales mix compared to Q1 — 48.5 percent versus 50 percent, respectively. This year, Chipotle plans to open more than 200 restaurants, more than 70 percent of which will include the digital, order-ahead pickup lane.

Gen Z Are The Most Conscious Alcohol Consumers

Year to date, the share of ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktails is growing at 15 times the rate as hard seltzer on Drizly, according to Drizly’s third annual Consumer Report.

Drizly commissioned a survey among 1,000 Americans over 21 to understand their summer and fall beverage choices, how newfound interests at home could influence consumption occasions in the long term and how they’re buying alcohol.

Traditional beer (61 percent), wine (56 percent) and spirits (44 percent) were the top three categories respondents listed when asked which drinks they’ll be reaching for most frequently this summer.

RTDs beat hard seltzers by 1 percent—30 percent versus 29 percent—despite RTDs share on Drizly being about half that of hard seltzer in 2021. Interestingly, less than a third of respondents could accurately define what hard seltzer is. Just 32 percent of consumers knew the correct answer—carbonated water with alcohol made from malt or sugar.

Twenty-three percent of respondents said they’d be drinking hard alternatives such as hard kombucha, hard tea and hard lemonade. And in last place, agave-based spirits such as tequila and mezcal are what 20 percent will be sipping on.

Consumers are seeking more transparency from alcohol brands about corporate ownership, ingredients listed on cans and sustainability practices associated with the product. Which of these factors matters the most differs across generations, Drizly’s research shows.

When taking traditional drivers like price and availability out of the equation, 39 percent of respondents reported that healthiness and how the beverage is made are what matter most while considering an alcohol brand to purchase, followed by 34 percent who said family ownership, size and localness is the top factor and 31 percent who said sustainable business practices were their foremost consideration.

As for the most important factor in respondents’ decision-making process when choosing alcohol to purchase, 20 percent named the ability to see all of the ingredients and the same number of respondents named calorie count. The third most important factor, as noted by 17 percent of respondents, is sugar content, the fourth is added health benefits like whether the drink contains probiotics and antioxidants, and the fifth most important factor is whether the beverage has a low alcohol level or is non-alcoholic.

Not surprisingly, Gen Z cares most about how their alcohol is made and who makes it. According to Drizly, the group over-indexed on both factors compared to other generations in purchase decision-making. In addition, nearly one-third of 21 to 24-year-olds surveyed cited minority ownership as an important brand choice consideration, followed by millennials at 18 percent, Gen X at 14 percent and baby boomers at 11 percent.

Sustainable business practices are also a driving force for 40 percent of Gen Z who say they factor environmental track record into alcohol brand selection, followed by Gen X at 33 percent, millennials at 32 percent and baby boomers at 20 percent.

For 67 percent of respondents, enjoying drinks while watching Netflix, television shows or movies at home was the top drinking behavior they partook in most during the pandemic. And 49 percent said it was having a couple of drinks on a weeknight.

As Drizly found, however, activities like cooking and streaming are poised to be enjoyed with a drink with the same or greater frequency as during the pandemic.

On-premise consumption is starting to rebound yet 54 percent said they’ll continue to drink at home this summer and fall, while 16 percent of respondents said they plan to drink most regularly at bars and restaurants. For 31 percent of those who plan to drink at bars and restaurants less often or not at all, the leading reasons are that they simply prefer to and that it costs less to do so.

About half (42 percent) plan to celebrate the 2021 holiday season the same way they did pre-pandemic — around friends and family.

One pandemic-induced behavior that will stick is shopping online for alcohol. According to Drizly, 53 percent of consumers will buy alcohol online more than before the pandemic and 33 percent will buy the same amount online as pre-pandemic.

Online marketplaces such as Instacart, Doordash and Drizly are where 72 percent of respondents said they bought alcohol online or for delivery in the past year. Thirty-nine percent listed their local liquor store website or via phone as their most-used channel to order alcohol.

Top Reason Consumers Distrust A Brand? Asking For Too Much Information

As consumers spend more time online, the level of trust people have in brands has become closely linked to how brands use their personal data.

When it comes to communications that are mutually beneficial, Jebbit’s fifth bi-annual Consumer Data Trust Index found that interactive experiences such as product matches and personality quizzes take the cake, increasing consumer trust by 38.4 percent.

The report asked adult consumers in the US to rate, on a scale of one to 10, their level of trust in brands to use their personal data in exchange for relevant promotions, goods and services.

Over half (62 percent) of consumers said they prefer personalized products and experiences but a brand’s approach can make or break how that experience is received. For example, 54 percent of consumers said their trust in a brand decreases when receiving emails based on data they haven’t knowingly shared.

Interactive experiences are nearly tied with personalized emails (38.9 percent) based on knowingly shared data and are the least likely to decrease trust by far, according to the report. Such experiences provide both transparency about how consumer data is used and immediately deliver value on that data through personalized recommendations, notes Jebbit.

Creating a data collection strategy is critical, as 35 percent of consumers told Jebbit that a brand asking for too much personal information was their top reason to distrust a brand—the number one reason for the third time in a row. Jebbit clients have seen increases of over 30 percent in customer lifetime value by collecting as few as three points from each of their customers.

The second reason consumers distrust a brand when providing personal information is a public data scandal, as noted by 21.1 percent of respondents; the third is experiencing “creepy” advertising, as noted by 18.2 percent. Confusing privacy policies was also a factor, suggesting the importance of making consumer-facing copy about privacy laws straightforward and digestible.

Nearly 32 percent of respondents said that they’re more likely to trust a brand that provides an improved experience based on the data they have about them. Another 42 percent said conversational tools that provide personalized experiences increase their trust in a brand.

Among industries, technology remains the most trusted industry overall. Food, beverage and spirits brands are the lowest-ranked industry.

For the fifth consecutive time, Amazon holds the top spot for most-trusted brand while setting a new high at 7.05. Trailing closely behind Amazon is Adidas, with a consumer trust rating of 7.03. Other brands that made the top five include Netflix in third, Google in fourth and Samsung in fifth.

Earning a trust rating of 5.97 out of 10, Facebook landed 97 on the list of 100 and is the least trustworthy out of the social media brands. Instagram fared slightly better, ranking at 71 with a score of 6.23.

See the full list of rankings here.

What We’re Reading—Week Of July 12th

A look at the marketing and advertising articles we’re sharing internally for the week of July 12th.

How CMOs Can Be A Force For Change When Defining Brand Purpose | Partner Content

Campaign Asia

At a roundtable hosted by Campaign and Twitter, Asia’s top marketing leaders agreed that their biggest challenge around fostering brand purpose is public skepticism, but that being consistent about what they stand for can inspire deeper trust from consumers.

Why it matters: According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, 70 percent of people think trusting a brand is more important today than in the past, and another 74 percent say a brand’s impact on society is a reason why brand trust has become more critical.

A TikTok Exec Says Livestreaming And Replying To User Comments Are Key Growth Drivers For Creators

Business Insider

According to Corey Sheridan, TikTok’s head of music partnerships and content operations in the US, creating livestream events and engaging directly with users in the comments are two effective strategies for building an audience on the app.

Why it matters: TikTok’s most recent show featuring Ed Sheeran set a new viewership record, surpassing 5.5 million viewers.

Ad Age’s 2021 Hottest Brands

Ad Age

The brands that made Ad Age’s annual list of ‘America’s Hottest Brands’ include Clubhouse, Draftkings, NFTs, Pattern, Reddit, The Home Edit, Figs and more.

Why it matters: Figs’ revenue surged 138 percent last year, and the brand boosted awareness with ads featuring real nurses’ stories, told on billboards and in subways in major cities. Plus, Reddit says it pinpointed the formula needed to reach $1 billion in ad revenue by 2023; the company raised $250 million in funding in February, giving it a $6 billion valuation

Shaping The Next Era Of Media, Inclusion And Business Ethics

Ad Age

Kirk McDonald, chief executive officer of GroupM North America, believes that brands need to connect with people in a meaningful and respectful way, and without infringing on their data privacy rights. That respect involves how brands deliver convenience and take into consideration the context of consumer needs and preferences.

Why it matters: In May, GroupM announced the formation of the Media Inclusion Initiative to support diverse talent and black-owned media companies and creators. The initiative includes a ‘Diverse Voices Accelerator’ fund which aims to create more diverse media ownership.