Sponsored feature

AB InBev loses sense of taste

In a fortnightly series, Electric Airwaves' MD analyses how one corporate message has played out through the media.

This is a tale of how brand marketers can become unstuck in the more prosaic world of PR. And of how a PR professional can make it worse.

Jean-Jacques Velkeniers of AB InBev has been chief marketer for Stella Artois in northern Europe for ten years. In this priceless interview with Swedish journalist Jonas Magnusson, Velkeniers has already given the general audience some alienating marketing speak (they are 'conquering the world, market by market, using fantastic brands like Stella Artois').

He then stumbles when Magnusson asks: 'What is the specific taste that has been responsible for your success?'

To which he replies: 'Can we cut there? That's a very difficult question.' The marketer cannot describe what his beer tastes like. He claims he doesn't know the English words, despite his English being excellent, and after a conversation with his PR agent, Natasha, he tells us that it has a 'very refreshing, full-bodied taste that's very crispy. Then there's the bitter after-note that pops into your mouth and makes it unique.' Any beer drinker will tell you that bitterness is a characteristic shared by all beers.

Pulling out three cans of beer from a plastic bag, Magnusson asks Velkeniers if he would be able to pick out Stella in a blind taste test. As he agrees to this, Natasha intervenes.

Rightly so. Leaving aside the damage potentially done if Velkeniers got it wrong, they are not to know if the cans have been doctored in any way or if he is comparing like-with-like.

But instead, Natasha tells Velkeniers, and the audience, that this was not part of the pre-agreed interview script, which while not uncommon in Europe, is probably not known by the audience and makes AB InBev look bullying and evasive.

She debates extensively with Velkeniers, who to his credit is keen to do the test and has to remind the PR professional that 'they are filming everything we say'.

The idea of a taste test is eventually dismissed because Velkeniers is 'not prepared', despite ten years working on the brand.


Takeaway Tips

  • John Humphrys once advised that spokespeople wanting to avoid being trashed by him need only do three things: 'prepare, prepare and prepare'.
  • 'What does your beer taste like?' is hardly a trick question but not one for which Velkeniers has prepared (in a programme about why microbreweries are challenging the big brands). His response fatally undermines him.
  • The blind taste test is a cheap trick and not the first time it has been asked of a food or drink company. But it is the manner of the PR person's intervention that diminishes the marketing director and the brand in the audience's eyes.

Read more Message in the Media articles here


MESSAGEINTHEMEDIA AUTOFEED

Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus

Latest Articles

Sky adds Fever PR to its roster after splitting with Cake

Sky adds Fever PR to its roster after splitting with Cake

Pay-TV giant Sky has added Fever PR to its agency line-up for a wide-ranging brief covering products and services.

Max Clifford trial jury to continue deliberations after Easter break

Max Clifford trial jury to continue deliberations after Easter break

The jury in the trial of celebrity publicist Max Clifford has been sent home for Easter and will reconvene on Tuesday for further deliberations about its verdicts on 11 charges of indecent assault.

Home Office brings in Munro & Forster to campaign against FGM

Home Office brings in Munro & Forster to campaign against FGM

The Home Office has tasked Munro & Forster (M&F) with supporting its campaign to eradicate female genital mutilation (FGM) as part of a wider retained brief.

Former White House press secretary Dee Dee Myers to join Warner Bros

Former White House press secretary Dee Dee Myers to join Warner Bros

Warner Bros has appointed former White House press secretary Dee Dee Myers as EVP for worldwide corporate communications and public affairs, effective September 2.