Nikita Mishra
Oct 27, 2023

The CMO's MO: Loretta Lee on putting the fizz back in Asahi's sales

Innovation, growth and the premiumisation of beer—these are just some of the hot topics on Asahi's marketing director for Asia, Loretta Lee's mind.

The CMO's MO: Loretta Lee on putting the fizz back in Asahi's sales

The CMO's MO: 9 questions with dynamic APAC marketing leaders, insights and personalities revealed. 

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Brand reputations take years to build and seconds to shatter. Marketers know the gravity of that all too well. So naturally, when Asahi—Japan's iconic and beloved beer and a permanent fixture in bars and restaurants across Asia—decided on its first-ever reinvention since it emerged in 1987, it was a high-stakes affair. Carried out globally, the rebranding extends beyond the logo to change the recipe for its flagship beer, Super Dry.

Amid fierce competition and eroding market shares, Asahi aims for better sales and an international footprint with this effort. At the helm of this initiative in Asia is marketing director Loretta Lee. In an interview with Campaign, she talks about the brand's future, undergoing dynamic transformation, and a shift towards wellness and beer culture. Lee also discusses the brand's most substantial challenges and opportunities as it teeters on the edge of a stagnant beer market. Facing intensified rivalry and dwindling market shares, Asahi is anticipating a 16% increase in sales in the coming year, and a jump to recover lost ground.

Scroll below for the full interview.

Loretta Lee, marketing director, Asia, Asahi.

1. What are the three biggest marketing challenges for your brand right now?

1. Continue to have double digit growth in a stagnant beer market—that means finding innovative and meaningful ways to differentiate from premium competitors and capture a larger share of the existing market.

2. Take the brand to the global stage—while Asahi Super Dry holds the position of being the number one beer brand at homebase in Japan, our challenge lies in expanding its presence and recognition on a global scale. This requires us to continually invest in international marketing efforts (for instance, our global partnership with City Football Group) to increase visibility and engage with a diverse international audience.

3. Innovation—both to recruit new consumers and unlock new drinking occasions. As a brand we need to continually innovate to attract new consumers and create fresh drinking occasions. This involves identifying emerging consumer trends, preferences, and behaviours in the beverage industry.

2. What are the three biggest opportunities for your brand?

1. The growing interest in premium beers—there is a noticeable trend among consumers towards premium and craft beers, driven by a desire for unique and high-quality beverage experiences. We’re tapping into this by emphasising Asahi’s craftsmanship, quality ingredients, and distinct flavours.

2. Partnership opportunities to get global spotlight—collaborating with strategic partners can significantly enhance brand visibility and expand market reach. We’ve already made investment in premiumising the partnership-fan experience including bar facilities at The Etihad Stadium and other stadia around the world.

Asia’s beer market is growing; that’s exciting for us. China itself represented half the Asian beer business in value in 2022. Combine that with the region's increasing disposable income, urbanisation, and changing consumer preferences, and we have a lucrative opportunity.  

3. In what areas are you increasing or cutting spend?

We are spending more on innovation. The idea is to bring products to consumers through unique activations that can’t be experienced elsewhere. For our rebrand of Asahi Super Dry in Singapore, the pop-up included photo opportunities at the ‘Ingredients and Yeast Rooms’, a Beer Garden with Asahi Super Dry food pairings, live music, and the opportunity to participate in a tasting Masterclass.

And speaking of innovation, one of our most successful launches recently has been our proprietary and award-winning Nama Jokki Can [see below]. The launch was a hit in South Korea; we are now rolling it out in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan, soon. We’ve created the can with a special interior coating which naturally produces a fine foam when opened. Essentially, it allows consumers to enjoy the same taste as a glass of draft beer served at a bar or restaurant, through a can.

4. Give us one example to convince our readers that your brand is walking the talk on sustainability.

We are custodians of some of the most admired and popular beer brands in the world, and we produce beverages we are proud of. In line with the Group’s sustainability goals, one of the key steps we have taken is to aim towards achieving zero waste at our brewery. All production sites in Japan already recycle 100% of by-products and waste and will continue to achieve 100% recycling of by-products and waste in the future. All production sites in Japan already use renewable energy for 100% of electricity purchased.

5. What needs to change in your industry when it comes to working culture?

The focus on sustainability; we must ensure a healthy contribution towards a sustainable planet and also respond to changing notions of well-being.

6. Trendjacking the metaverse train: Is it for your brand or not?

We are all for embracing new trends. Metaverse is something that is definitely on our radar and we’ve been experimenting in some capacity.

To celebrate the official training kit launch of Manchester City, we released a social media campaign featuring star players using an AR filter to enhance the new training kit.

Recently, Asahi Super Dry’s NFT Card Collection was launched globally to celebrate the 36th birthday of Asahi Super Dry in March this year. It was the Group’s first move into NFT marketplace on a global scale.

The metaverse is evolving, and we will continue to find more opportunities for Asahi Super Dry to engage with the audiences and create immersive modern Japan experiences.

7. Complete the sentence: “Today’s CMO must be ….”.

An internal entrepreneur. We don't just bring creative ideas to the table, but also have to be commercially-driven, and be able to inspire others by working towards a common vision.

8. What kind of a marketer are you? Answer using a maximum of three adjectives.

Honest, forward-looking, and empathetic.

Lee at a recent brand trip to showcase Modern Japan

Lee with members of the media

9. What keeps you up at night?

How can we do things differently to have better results. I am always seeking ways to improve our marketing strategies, tactics, and campaigns to drive better business results. To achieve this, we need to embrace a culture of continuous learning and innovation. It can only be done by being open and staying agile.

Campaign Asia

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