Tracy Stallard

Global Vice President Consumer Experiences
AB InBev
“Meaningful marketing is something that speaks to a consumers need.”
Tracy Stallard is the Global Vice President Consumer Experiences at AB InBev and the company’s in-house agency draftLine. We meet with her in Cannes, where Cannes Lions awarded AB InBev as its Creative Marketer of the Year 2022.
Are you happy to be here in Cannes?
‘Super happy. I believe so much in the serendipity of meeting random people. You can't do that without the in-person interaction and the human side of marketing.’

You've been in various positions at AB InBev for some 11 years. What keeps you there?
‘New exciting challenges. My undergraduate degree is in civil engineering, which may seem weird for someone that works in marketing. When I left university, I just said: I don't want to do the same thing every day. I want to do something that's dynamic, something that focuses on people and learning about people and understanding people. And very luckily I fell into marketing.’

A lot of engineers are in marketing, it's strange.
‘Marketing is becoming more tech-driven, more analytical. We have a lot more tools that engineers are naturally driven to. It also speaks to the way creativity is evolving. At the World Economic Forum, they say anyone in any industry should have creativity as a skill. So, it's not just a marketing thing.’

So, AI is not gonna take over from creatives?
‘They say creativity is so important because you need to be able to think through what the AI is saying and how we translate that into an insight, into an idea.’

How would you define meaningful marketing?
‘The big transformation we're seeing is this move from marketers thinking ‘What does my brand need’ to ‘What can I do as a brand to help fulfil a consumer’s need?’ Meaningful marketing has a meaningful place in a consumer's mind and heart.’
AB InBev Tienda Cerca campaign
Do you have an example?
‘Last year we won a Grand Prix in the commerce category for Tiendas Cerca, a delivery service for local shops in Latin America. Small stores across Colombia depend on being open for their livelihoods. Not being able to be open during the pandemic was a huge problem for them. Equally, consumers were struggling to get their everyday needs. So, we came up with an app that enabled consumers to text the owner of a small business and order what they needed. It was like e-commerce in its infancy stage. The goal was to help our customers and our consumers. I love that it was an idea from someone on our sales team, not from the marketing team. They brought it to our in-house agency, draftLine, and they brought it forward. Oftentimes the best solution to a problem is simple and really direct.’

And it kept these small businesses going?
‘Yes. And there's another angle; we as a company depend on these small stores as well. If they're not in business we don't have a place to sell our beer. Helping them, also helps us. Really purposeful marketing is when there's a win for the consumer, for the world, and for the business. We expanded Tiendas Cerca outside of Colombia into nine other countries around the world because we saw that it was performing so well.’

Your LinkedIn page says that you're passionate about building amazing brands that entertain, excite, and deliver great functionality in the lives of people. How does beer add functionality to our lives?
‘We are in a global pandemic of loneliness, and have been for a long time. The COVID pandemic has certainly accelerated that. We, as an organization, want to create more cheers in peoples' lives. This means more people coming together, more people getting in touch with friends, and meeting new people over a beer. We think that beer is a nice enabler to back conversation. At one time we would call ourself the original social network. Beer goes back thousands of years and has been a large part of how society developed.’

AB InBev has a commitment to helping farmers, retailers, entrepreneurs and communities grow. How do you live up to that promise?
‘It's a multidisciplinary effort. It's how everyone across our business needs to think. A good example: we knew there was a consumer demand for an organic beer. But there's very little organic barley in the world because there wasn't a market for it. And farmers are very hesitant about starting to grow something new because the investment is massive. So, we created this Contract for Change, that said: we're gonna buy this organic barley from you in the future if you are willing to grow it. And that's how we were able to bring our first organic beer to life with Michelob ULTRA. So, we help farmers and it's also a huge growth driver because consumers are looking for products that they perceive as healthy and make them feel good.’
Contract for Change with Michelob ULTRA
Are there other brands using this sustainable farming route in their production phase?
‘I'm seeing a lot of great work. I saw an amazing case this year from the team at Dole. For every ton of pineapples that they harvest, three tons of pineapple leaves become waste. So, they worked with a company to turn those leaves into a vegan leather product. They're not allowing those leaves to waste away and become methane. It's very similar to an initiative that we are doing with Corona on plastic fishing. We love our beaches but a big problem today is that there's a lot of plastic in the oceans. We decided to start holding fishing competitions, where fishermen went out and fished for plastic. We partnered with other organizations that would pay the fishermen for that plastic. It's not a marketing campaign, it's a sustainability effort and we're proud to be a partner of it. And it's only sustainable if there's a win-win for everyone in the value chain.’

Cannes Lions has awarded AB InBev with the title Creative Marketer of the Year 2022. Tell us a bit more about that.
‘At these festivals you see someone getting an award on stage, but you don't always hear about the many years that it takes to get here. Historically we’ve been widely known for being a mergers and acquisitions organization. We’ve expanded our geographic footprint massively over the last couple of decades. But a few years ago, we pivoted to being a growth-minded organization. One of the things we needed to change was to have creativity closer to the actual business. We had to start democratizing creativity and make it a core capability of our organization. That's when we created draftLine. We brought creatives into the company that were going to excite and infuse and build that skill with other people. So now we work much more cross-functionally. Ideas are coming from sales reps and unexpected places, and we can use those to fuel our growth. So being here as creative marketer of the year is a huge honor, but for us it's really been about growing the business in a very new and different direction.’

So, everybody can come up with a great idea and own it?
‘We have our internal creative awards, that we call Creative Acts, for whoever copies someone else's idea the best. We're literally telling people in the organization: we want you to copy from each other. We had everyone across the company ideating and thinking on briefs at the same time. That way, we would see and hear different ideas from different people. We called that Ideas for Good, which became Ideas for Growth. A lot of our ideas at Cannes this year have come through that process.’

Encouraging plagiarism is quite innovative.
‘Yes, plagiarism is good! And by the way, having a creative idea is hard but to execute it well is incredibly difficult.’
Carling Black Label #NoExcuse campaign
Looking back at your career at InBev, what are you most proud of?
‘It's the way that we've brought a new generation of marketers into the company. We've turned people who would have never thought of themselves as marketers into marketers. Right now, one of my close sales colleagues is actually joining the marketing team. It's a little bit uncomfortable for him but it represents the direction that we're going in. For me, the greatest thrill ride is to see how we've been able to transform.’

Is there a particular campaign you're most proud of?
‘Besides Tienda Circa and Corona Fishing, I would bring up #NoExcuse, from Carling Black Label. We won a Grand Prix for it in 2018. It's speaking to the fact that in South Africa there are a lot of individuals, in particular men, who use alcohol as an excuse for domestic violence. A large part of that campaign spoke directly to people who are our consumers. For some brands that might be a really scary thing to do. The clear message was: there is no excuse for domestic abuse. We worked with the government in South Africa on that campaign. It has gone on for some three and a half years now, so it's something that we continue to do. It's part of who we are as a company. In the US we were one of the first organizations to come out in favor of wearing seatbelts and don't drink and drive. We're really glad that it has become a legal mandatory for people in our industry, because we think that's good for communities.’

Looking at the challenges we're facing right now - war in Ukraine, staggering inflation, the energy crisis, sustainability problems - how do you cope with that as a brand?
‘One of the reasons we created draftLine was that we felt we were too far away from our consumer. There were two things we really needed to learn: the who and the what. Who are our consumers? And what is the reality of the world that they're living in? We're consistently looking at our work, asking: is it speaking to the actual consumer need that exists in the world right now? One of our submissions at Cannes this year is for a project we started when the war in Ukraine broke out. It came from this insight that there are lots of people around the world who would like to help in the humanitarian efforts, but they don't know how. So, we said: what if we make it as simple as buying a beer? We took the most loved beer brand from Ukraine, and we launched it in 13 different markets around the world. We make zero money off of it, we donate 100 per cent of the proceeds to NGOs. It's an easy, seamless way for consumers to get involved in something that they care about. It took us six weeks from idea to launch.’

Finally, can you tell us any plans regarding brands, products, or innovations?
‘We have an exciting pipeline of products and campaign work, and we are consistently looking at how we can reinvent our portfolio and our offering to meet what consumers are looking for. Today, that means more things in the seltzer space, more things in the flavored space. So, lots more to come. Stay tuned at your local retailer because you're going to see a lot popping up on shelves soon.’
About Tracy Stallard
Tracy Stallard is the Global Vice President Consumer Experiences at AB InBev. She previously led US Media for AB InBev for five consecutive Super Bowls. In 2018 she founded draftLine, AB InBev’s internal agency, and currently serves as the global head of its 11 offices around the world. Tracy graduated from the University of California, Berkeley earning a degree in Civil Engineering.

About Anheuser-Busch InBev
Anheuser-Busch InBev, in short AB InBev, is the world's leading brewer, with over 500 different beer brands including: Budweiser, Becks, Corona, and Stella-Artois. The company was founded in 2008 through InBev acquiring Anheuser-Busch. AB InBev has 170,000 employees worldwide and a revenue of US$ 54.30 billion in 2021.
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