Budweiser is a brand that is fond of seasonal marketing in China, whether it be genuinely scary Halloween thrills, unique and playful Valentine's Day campaigns, or developing new traditions during Chinese New Year.
In 2022, the brand marked the sixth year of releasing limited-edition red bottles during Chinese New Year in collaboration with independent creative agency JKR. According to data from Chinese media, all the red bottles were sold out on JD.com within an hour, and Budweiser became the top beer brand on ecommerce.
When Campaign China asked Budweiser’s APAC CMO, Matt Che, whether he would worry about consumers getting tired of CNY campaigns and red bottles, he says: “I worry about it every day. This is one thing that I constantly worry about every day. Consumers easily get tired of us.”
However, Che continues to invest in resources and putting more effort into CNY marketing, as a sign that the brand is in tune with local Chinese culture. CNY is portrayed in this case not only as a festival where families gather but also as a season of giving and receiving gifts.
This year, the brand launched its Budweiser Brewmaster Reserve special edition to ring in the Year of the Tiger, amid a competitive season for alcoholic drinks sales, when almost all categories from exotic whisky and wine to Chinese Baijiu and Huangjiu (yellow wine) attempt to outdo each other.
Romancing the beer category
In 2019, Budweiser added another signature marketing campaign in China and started “All Love is Love”, a Chinese Valentine's Day (Qixi Festival) campaign. By designing kiss bottles, consumers could mix and match the kisses on the bottles to celebrate all kinds of love. The campaign triggered a social media sensation, generating 15,000 pieces of consumer-generated content, 250 million impressions and 21 million RMB (US$4 million) in ad value and drove up Budweiser’s brand power to record heights in the third quarter of 2019.
As diversity and inclusion officer of Budweiser’s Asia-Pacific region, Che believes that the brand “cherishes all love”. This ties into the brand slogan “be your true self”, he says.
The campaign faced pressure from mainstream media in the Chinese market, but eventually received positive feedback and comments from consumers, which Che said “was extremely rewarding”. He will continue to build on the campaign to uphold the brand's purpose.
The metaverse and experience marketing
Virtual influencer Hajiang began her journey in the metaverse and virtual world several years ago and was thought to be a pioneer in brand marketing. Now, she is a brand ambassador for Harbin under the Budweiser group.
To Che, the metaverse is nearly the same as digitalisation and big data. He looks forward to seeing the metaverse become a revenue-building engine in the future. At the same time, he emphasises that the brand will advertise in the metaverse and gaming world to reach out to Gen Z.
To attract Gen Z, Che says that the concept of traditional 'brand loyalty' is not 'consumer-centric' enough. Instead, he prioritises data-driven marketing based on consumer insights, converging various brands under Budweiser into consumers' life experiences. He says that in order to make consumers enjoy the products comfortably but not forcibly, 'effortless marketing' is necessary.
He maintains that brands should “understand the emotional demands and material needs of consumers” before thinking about product innovation and new ways of communications.
“Once I understand [consumers], I can deliver my products, innovations and experiences in a very comfortable way without disturbing them. [Consumers] can then naturally consider and use my brand and eventually fall in love with it," says Che.
Che’s new understanding of experience marketing also expands into other adjacent categories. Following its global 'beyond the beer' adventure, Budweiser APAC ventures across different categories such as ready-to-drink, spirit and non-alcoholic drinks and has begun to sell soft drinks and energy drinks on Tmall in China.
In March, Budweiser renewed its media partnership with Publicis Groupe’s Starcom in the APAC region, who helps the brands balance its top markets: China, Korea, India, and Vietnam.
He said about his partnership with Publicis, “It is no longer just a media-buying collaboration. We are using the media to engage with the consumers to build awareness and consideration, and eventually, build a brand preference, and in the end, hopefully drive conversion”.
Once again, he stressed that he does not want to “bother consumers, or even bombard them with commercial messages”, especially during this tough time in China. Instead, he hopes that consumers will “get rid of anxious stress”, grab a few bottles of beer, and meet people they haven't met in a long time.