Twenty years ago, Fernando Machado and Marcel Marcondes would be in disbelief if they knew playing video games and clinking beers together would contribute to nearly 300 Cannes Lions awards combined. Cheering each other along the way, these long-time friends have developed into inspirational marketing leaders. Marcel Marcondes is the Global CMO of Anheuser-Busch InBev, and Fernando Machado is now the CMO of Activision Blizzard. In our conversation, they share elements that have strengthened and improved their brand’s performance, with creative marketing at the heart of everything they do.
Here is what they had to say on Visionaries and how it could influence your team, talent, and future.
Note: At the time of this interview, Fernando Machado was the CMO of Activision Blizzard and has since been named CMO of NotCo.
- Reflecting on Two Decades of Marketing and Friendship
- Knowing When Your Brand Needs to Evolve
- Creative Makes a Difference: Rewards vs. Results
- How to Foster Skills in Creative and Marketing
- Looking at The Future of Marketing: Beer and Gaming Industries
Reflecting on Two Decades of Marketing and Friendship
Fernando Machado: My friendship with Marcel started in 1998 while we were both working at Unilever, a leading consumer goods company. We spent hours watching ads together, drinking beers, and playing video games with friends.
When we first met, we had a lot of ambition about marketing, creativity, and doing meaningful work; however, we had no idea what we were doing. As years went on, we grew from our ambition and invested our time and effort to learn the art and science of marketing.
Over the last two decades, not only have Marcel and I evolved as marketers, but the gaming world, along with CPG and beverages, has developed rapidly. Digitalization has changed everything, and the pandemic has significantly accelerated the need for industry transformation.
Marcel and I are still marketing students; the only difference is that we are more experienced and, fortunately, have some success under our belts.
Marcel Marcondes: Our time at Unilever was an excellent opportunity to learn and have great experiences— we also played a fair amount of PlayStation together during lunch. Since then, I have worked at Anheuser-Busch InBev for almost 20 years and have seen the industry drastically change.
In some ways, marketing has become more challenging because it is more granular; but that’s what makes it fascinating. Marketing used to be all about TV commercials; now, it is about finding creative solutions for business or consumer problems.
Knowing When Your Brand Needs to Evolve
Marcel Marcondes: Anheuser-Busch InBev set a goal to be the number one FMCG (Fast-moving consumer goods) five years ago, but we wanted to do so with humility. To reach this goal, we conducted an honest self-assessment, and it became clear that we were behind. Given the size and magnitude of our brands, we needed to do a better job.
Historically, AB InBev’s success was due to acquisitions, and we became leaders in the beer industry because of consolidation. While this was great initially, we needed to grow organically instead. We reprioritized our brands and the people we serve as our most important assets and knew this was the way to achieve organic growth.
To make this shift, our work and growth models required a change, and creativity needed a more significant role.
Creative Makes a Difference: Rewards vs. Results
Fernando Machado: While I’m proud of the creative recognitions at Unilever, RBI, Burger King, Popeye’s, and with Activision Blizzard, I’m most proud of how creativity has led to better results.
For example, when I worked on the “Real Beauty Sketches” campaign for Dove with Steve Miles at Unilever, Dove grew double digits, accelerating the brand’s global growth, and received 24 Cannes Lions awards.
Now, it’s the same story for Activision Blizzard. We have received substantial industry recognition in terms of creativity, for instance, with Tony Hawk Pro Skater’s “Scratch That Board” campaign. However, what is most exciting to me is seeing how creative excellence drives engagement with different communities around our franchises and how it drives brand love and business growth.
Despite all the accomplishments and awards, I am proud to prove it is not about being creative for creative’s sake; it’s being creative to drive the brand’s strength and the company’s performance.
Marcel Marcondes: To get where we are today, I spoke a lot with Fernando to learn from his steps and the companies he was working with. We studied how to be consumer-centric, develop creative solutions, and build stronger relationships with agencies. Once this became a global focus, we started to see scale.
Achieving 50 Cannes Lions awards this year only happened because we ensured all the company’s different units, all over the world, were working with the same mindset, process, and ambition daily, but it was a five-year process.
Bridging the Gap Between the Creative and Marketer
Marcel Marcondes: Knowing the problem your organization solves is the first and most essential element for creative marketing. To bring your best work forward, you must first surround yourself with a team that has clarity about the people you serve and their problems. The same goes for working with advertising agencies and teams that work on innovation and digital integration; clarity, purpose, and passion are essential for success.
For example, at Cannes, we won two Grand Prix prizes with our Michelob ULTRA campaign, “Contract for Change.” Not only was it creative, but it was the first organic beer we launched in the U.S.
As hard as it was to innovate a product like that, the curation of Michelob ULTRA Pure Gold was due to the creative solutions accomplished by passionate people who didn’t take no for an answer.
Fernando Machado: Creativity can be applied to any discipline; it only happens that Marcel and I work in marketing. It’s possible to be creative in the supply chain, operation, product development, or any area. Applied in marketing, creativity can serve as a multiplier for the brand’s growth, depending on the company and industry. Creativity enhances everything you do.
Looking at The Future of Marketing: Beer and Gaming Industries
Fernando Machado: I appreciate how gaming is known to bring people together, and it’s where technology, entertainment, and creativity meet. The gaming world is evolving daily and is more accessible than ever; the challenge as a marketer is to evolve faster than the industry.
Marketers have endless opportunities to partner with other brands, blur the lines between real and virtual worlds, and engage communities built around these games. We must continue to innovate, experiment, try different things, partner with other brands, and find creative ways to improve the experience for players and the community.
Marcel Marcondes: It excites me that AB InBev can take the beer industry to the next level, helping everyone grow together. After going through the pandemic, I think we’re all waking up to the fact we are humans. The most important element for today and tomorrow is the acknowledgment that we are people, and that we work to serve people. This mindset is what will drive the growth and development of our industries.
As leaders, we can put people back at the center of the industry, and by doing so, we can serve our consumers better and drive more growth; this is what it means to be a relevant business.
For example, as we test NFTs in the market, we want to provide meaningful experiences to our consumers through relevant experiences versus becoming another brand with a headline about an NFT project.
Companies our size are responsible for applying creativity to address business and consumer problems, drive growth, take our businesses to a better place, and improve the world. At AB InBev, our purpose is to “Dream Big to Create a World with More Cheers,” and the future is about bringing that to life.
Visionaries, hosted by Nadine Dietz, airs every Tuesday at 9 AM PT and is brought to you in partnership with The Wall Street Journal. Each week, two new visionaries share their game plan and how that impacts today’s teams, talent, and hybrid work environment.
Fernando Machado CMO, Activision Blizzard: Fernando is a global marketer with a passion for growing brands and businesses and he is known for pushing the creative boundaries to drive business growth (200+ Cannes Lions, 24 D&AD Yellow Pencils, 1 D&AD Black Pencil, and 2 Grand Effies). As CMO of Activision Blizzard, he is a marketer for some of the most exciting titles in the gaming industry, such as Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, Diablo, Overwatch, Candy Crush, among others. Prior to joining Activision Blizzard, Fernando spent 7 years at Restaurant Brands International (Burger King, Popeyes, and Tim Hortons). His focus was to infuse the brands with purpose (incl. sustainability), improving product quality, modernizing design, and inspiring the organization around tech, digital, and brand development. Prior to joining Restaurant Brands International, Fernando worked for 18 years at Unilever.
Marcel Marcondes, CMO, Ab InBev: Marcel is AB InBev’s Chief Marketing Officer. Appointed in April 2022, Marcondes has been with the company since 2005, most recently as Global President, Beyond Beer Co. Born in 1975, he is a Brazilian citizen and holds master’s degree in business administration from the Business School São Paulo. From 2017 to 2021, Marcondes was the Chief Marketing Officer at Anheuser-Busch, where he led the marketing strategy for a broad portfolio of some of the world’s largest beer brands. Marcondes sits on the Board of the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) and is a member of the Cannes Lions CMO Growth Council. He also sits on Adweek’s Diversity & Inclusion Council and leads Anheuser-Busch’s partnerships with AIMM’s #SeeHer and #SeeAll to promote multicultural marketing. Before joining AB InBev, Marcondes spent seven years in brand management at Unilever.
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