Deborah Womack joined Beverage Marketing Association today for the second part in our eBev Global Interview Series! Deborah is a global relationship marketing expert, having made successful stops at Sony, Nokia, and most recently SABMiller, and we’re thrilled to be chatting with her. Feel free to join in!

Deborah Womack (DW): Thank you Seth, it’s good to be here.

Seth Hillstrom (SH): Aright, let’s jump right into it! You have a wealth of knowledge about making meaningful connections with people including most recently leading this dynamic as Global Head of Relationship Marketing for SABMiller. What is it that you feel makes the relationship between consumers and beverage brands so special and often passionate? What’s different about the beverage industry and how we win “share of heart”, which is a wonderful term coined by our friend Christian McMahan by the way. Thanks Christian!

DW: I certainly gained a great understanding of the Bev (beverage) Industry, its shoppers, consumers and customers whilst at SABMiller.

Often shoppers and consumers feel an “emotional” connection to certain drinks products that drive purchase of favorite brands. For beverages like beer, wines and spirits these products are consumed on specific occasions – often associated with food occasions, sports and music events, family and friends gathering – all associating an emotional connection to the brand. Remember “Now comes Miller time”?

This isn’t true for all Bev products. For example it can be challenging to find the connection to a soft drink. But if you look at Coca-Cola and Red Bull, they have created that emotional investment through the brand proposition e.g. Coke’s “Taste the Feeling” perfectly demonstrates what I’m talking about. It’s functional as well as emotional. Brands need an emotional connection to build any form of relationship with the shopper and consumer.

What makes the Bev industry different is that brands (manufacturers) rarely have a direct relationship with the shopper or consumer – that is held by the retailer (the customer). That’s true for all manufacturers, however more Bev brands could start locating and connecting with consumers on socialCRM platforms – we see examples of this e.g. and Vivino

Anyone have examples for soft drinks? Water? Health drinks?

SH: In this way, I might even suggest the passion we’re talking about in the beverage industry gives it a leg up over other industries when it comes to direct consumer relationships. I have another one or two in the alcohol space – such as Melani Gordon’s company TapHunter.

I think that’s a great point. So when a brand is considering “where to play” when they want to connect with their audience at meaningful times – what should they be thinking about? (and by deciding where to play – I mean: do we go heavy into sports? music? holidays? etc?)

DW: Most Bev marketers focus on sports, music and events sponsorship already and it works very well to create awareness. For a deeper connection and understanding of shoppers and consumers, I believe incremental value can be gained by stepping outside those traditional occasions and thinking about creating “communities of interest” — or what we call #socialCRM. That is, get shoppers and consumers talking about how to consume the product in the best, most enjoyable way possible.

Relationship Marketing is really about improving interactions with the business. So if the role of campaigns and sponsorship is awareness and acquisition, the role of Relationship Marketing is to create familiarity, promote relevance and extend usage to other occasions — it’s to help us understand more about the consumer to whom we do not have a close connection. Make sense?

SH:Terrific insights, thank you. Going a step further, from the brands perspective, we’d love to reach every person in the world who might like our products. That said, we can’t just keep buying media until we actually reach the entire world – so when considering who to reach and how to reach them (including when building a “community of interest, as you suggest”), what are some of your top priorities? Do they relate to targeting, messaging, experience, etc.?

DW:Yes, it really is unrealistic to try and reach everyone no matter how much media budget one has. In fact, often media is reaching the same people over and over again. Targeting is a means of optimizing budget. If advertising does its job and creates awareness and interest, my focus is then to capitalize on that awareness and ask “permission to contact”. What we found at SABMiller is that consumer and shoppers will give their data if they believe they will get something relevant and valuable in return — relevance and value being the key.

So my priority is always #data. Relationship Marketing in today’s Bev Marketing world is creating meaningful interactions that invite participation. It must obviously also deliver a truly great experience.

From my experience globally working inside a beer brewer, marketing of Bev products hasn’t changed vastly. Of course many brands are shifting to online and social platforms, however most are not capitalizing on the wealth of data coming from these platforms. In the past real-time behavioral data wasn’t available. It’s such an exciting time to be working in CRM/Relationship Marketing as we have access to data we never had — and in real time. The trick is to have the technology and strategy to act on it.

SH: Amen! I know Matt Silk of Waterfall agrees. They’re a mobile platform dedicated to capitalizing on the wealth of data brands are and are NOT capturing.

Matt Silk (Head of Strategy, Waterfall): Seth, thanks for the plug. Been waiting for years for beverage marketers to reallocate a portion of their budgets towards CRM efforts. Hopefully 2017 is the year, re-acquiring customers constantly is crazy and building your list of known subscribers is a well dialed in practice in other segments

Maksym Gajewsky (Marketing Cloud Consultant, factory 24):Taking to account the power of data and modern analytics, does it mean marketers have to relinquish segments altogether? Should we personalize message for segments or for every particular customer, even if there millions of them?

DW: Thanks Maksym Gajewsky. Segments/Segmentation is still vitally important because personalization works. Companies need to understand that there can be more than one type of segmentation — for example the segmentation you use for your media targeting may be different from the segmentation you use for your loyalty or Relationship Marketing program.

In fact for FMCG & Bev marketing, we began with consumer segments based upon demographics to deliver initial messages to consumers. When we knew more about them because of subsequent behaviors we then broke this down into behavioral and response segments and based messages on that. This gave us 32 different segments delivered in real time via SMS (this was in South Africa and Mozambique). So even there we were delivering personalized messaged based upon data as we captured it.

Maksym Gajewsky: And another question: what are most interesting channels in your opinion for gaining data for Relationship Management. We all use Facebook, Twitter (social media). Can we make use of e.g. Uber data – granted, that these data is available?

SH: Great questions Maksym. I’m curious not only what platforms we feel comfortable using, but also how we feel about working with them directly to gather that 2nd party data (rather than going exclusively through the agency)? Any thoughts on this Deborah?

DW: Sure. Facebook is good yes however I found you need to have a data strategy to understand what data you need and why. Facebook can be tricky. The best data is that you collect yourself and AUGMENT with other sources such as Facebook. If you want to “own” the consumer relationship, it follows that you need to own the data too.

SH: So, final question: We are thrilled that you have agreed to chair Beverage Marketing Association’s global forum next March, eBev Europe. Why is it so important that we as marketers, brands, and industry stakeholders have a forum like this and what are some things you’re looking to accomplish as we bring this community together?

DW: I am thrilled as well. Having had the privileged of attending and speaking at last year’s Beverage Marketing Association event eBev Europe (, I can say that it is unique as it doesn’t simply focus on a single platform e.g. digital or social, but on the industry, itself. In this way, attendees get focused, applicable information and case studies. Marketers can apply their insights as soon as they return to the office — which I know from speaking to people last year they did just that. What I want to do this year is bring that real-life learning as well as relevant innovations to help Bev marketers and industry stakeholders make change happen.

Here’s the link to register for eBev Europe: I’m looking forward to seeing everyone there.

SH:Thank you so much Deborah, and we are looking forward to seeing you as well!!

DW:Thank you, Seth! And thank you to those who joined today. See you in Lisbon


Questions or comments for Seth or Deborah? Feel free to leave a comment below or send an email to

Leave A Comment