MillerCoors’ Steve Mura Says Modern-Day Marketing Is About Real-Time ‘Course Correction’

SteveMuraArtMarketing beer gives Steve Mura, director of digital marketing for Chicago-based MillerCoors, and his team, a “license to play.”

Joining a panel discussion at the DMA 2013 show in Chicago that also included MillerCoors’ agency, DigitasLBI, Mura said digital media has given the modern marketer more capability mid-funnel.

“When you think about tools that allowed us to get close to the point of purchase in the past, it used to be TV, radio, out-of-home and print,” he said. “As someone moves now from a consumer to a shopper, digital and mobile media buys” break down barriers between brand-building and local activation.

Even organizations that once bucketed social or mobile into functional siloes are finding “the conversations are being integrated,” said Brooke Skinner, SVP of brand strategy for DigitasLBI.

Mura cited an example: “We were very much used to copywriters being behind the scenes and handing [creative messaging] over to the sales or media-buying team.” MillerCoors worked on a mobile ad execution this summer targeting men who were within a half-mile of a convenience store on a hot summer day. “We had conversations about weather triggers, time of day, but we [realized] we hadn’t talked once about the creative, even though this was a creative campaign.”

Mura elaborated later for AdExchanger about bridging the gap between creative planning and the media buy.

 AdExchanger: How does data drive your digital marketing strategy?

STEVE MURA: We’re, in many ways, still trying to figure out exactly the role data will play. The one thing we do know is that data, at its core, should help us become a lot more personalized, nimble and reactive. It should also help us have a better understanding of our consumers. Data that informs our marketing efforts. Data that makes our marketing efforts more precise. And then data on the back end that helps us understand, "Did this actually sell more beer?" The promise and theory of data is great, but we haven’t done enough of it to actually say, "We truly believe these data sources are accurate and we are talking to the right people that translates into sales." That’s kind of where we are right now. Somewhere between acting on data and still proving it out.

Beyond targeting by audience demographic, how are you looking at "timing" – and the role of mobile in delivering location-based ads?

The benefit for us -- because beer is not a high-involvement, high-consideration category – is a lot of times it’s light-touch. A nudge on a warm day. A nudge when there’s a big sporting event. There are a lot of things that drive people to buy beer and, because of mobile, it allows us to be more in tune with that purchasing behavior.

The thing that keeps me up at night is, "How do we action off of that data?" Do we have the right people, skills and infrastructure that allow us to intake that data and act upon it? That’s just obviously not been a core competency of ours and I’m not sure when we’ll draw that line of, "This is the right size team that can do it," so every year, we’re re-evaluating what is the right infrastructure.

You had mentioned wanting to align the creative message more with the media purchase, strategically. Is this possible?

Marketers are going to insist on it. They’re going to say, "You can’t bring me an idea without some really great execution." Before, it used to be more of an afterthought. I would argue that digital has made every medium kind of step up their game to make sure the idea is more aligned with the delivery vehicle. I look at print ads now and I can tell, "Someone was more thoughtful in how that print ad could fit within the context of that publication" than they could be in the past. You can’t just say, "I have an idea and then someone else will figure out where else to deliver it." Having (a message that’s) optimized with (different forms of media), it’s table stakes.

How do you build out a customer database if you primarily sell through distributors and retail/bar partnerships?

We don’t talk databases, but we talk about, "How do we sell beer and how do we drive competitive advantage for our retailers and distributors?" Eventually, we ask, "What are the ideas, ways and programs (in which) we can assist our retail partners?" Then, eventually, you get to the database types of questions.

Once we have great ideas and clever ways to execute and connect it, then we get into the data. Usually, more times than not, we say, "Let’s connect with consumers in an organic way." If consumers are looking for a bar or restaurant, they go to Yelp. If they are looking to read about sports, they go to ESPN. For us, it goes back to, "Our consumer knows where to go to get the information that’s important to them." And that has not trumped our ability to say, "There’s a white space here and they wouldn’t mind hearing from us here."

What are the highs and lows of marketing adult beverages?

We often talk that our role in digital is to put beer in the role it plays in the physical world and the online world. Nobody wakes up in the morning and says, "It’s a beautiful day. I have to have a Coors Light." What they usually do is wake up and say, "It’s a beautiful day. I’m going to get together with my buddies and figure out a bar to go to."

It’s not always a beer-first conversation. It’s often a conversation about what am I doing, who am I doing it with and where am I going? And we want to be a part of that conversation. We just have to make sure we embrace that role and truly offer utility.

How do you determine the right media mix – paid, earned or owned – when it comes to all of your different brands, e.g. Blue Moon, Miller Lite?

When we look at paid, owned, earned, it’s really more of, "What’s the marketing objective?" "What are the business objectives?" And "What are the challenges?" If it’s awareness, often we will lean heavily on paid. But if the brand’s No. 1 thing is relevance, we might pull more heavily on the owned and earned. And every brand has its own mix. As you work through the plan, what levers do you need to pull harder on to connect with your consumer?

It’s also often what a consumer’s expectations are of that brand. You have Blue Moon, and that consumer base is very engaged and they’re very social. For that brand, they can do a lot in the owned-and-earned space. Other brands, where there isn’t that much engagement, where there are loyal consumers but they might not be as inclined to recommend or write about it, paid might be a bigger pulse there.

Every brand has its own unique challenges and you have to sit and live and breathe that brand. It used to be really easy. I had four levers – TV, radio, out-of-home and point of sale. Now, I have all these other levers, so the brand has to figure out, "[Maybe] I’ll pull a little less on TV" [or invest more in another channel in another instance]. You’re constantly in course correction. Something is always in play that will force you to be constantly tweaking, which I think is the fun part of being a marketer now. You don’t just shoot your TV spot, put on TV and wait for next year’s budget. It’s much more real-time.

 

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