Brewing: the Brand Dilemma

Kicking off our brewing series, today we look at brands, and their effect in a matrix environment.

Brewers’ brands are now not merely international – they’re global. Over the past decade Carlsberg, for example, has transformed from a significant regional brewer into the world’s fourth largest brewer. SAB Miller operates across six continents.

Globalization leads not only to a constant repositioning of brands, but creates an interesting global/local dynamic, faced even by smaller multi-national brewers like East African Breweries. It operates across Kenya and Uganda, exports its premium beer, Tusker, widely, and acts as a distributor for global brands in the region. This level of complexity usually demands some form of matrix organization.

In a matrix, we reflect – and have to manage the power balance between – the global and the local, the function and the business line. Leaders need the skills and confidence to manage the power balance, and the trade-offs and daily dilemmas that managing in this complex environment requires.

The effect of signature brands – the global, unifying, ‘sold everywhere’ brand – inside companies can be a brand ‘hierarchy’ – either spoken or unspoken. The company’s key brand or brands earn a higher focus, higher budgets and greater protection than other brands.

Anheuser-Busch InBev ® (referred to as AB InBev hereafter), for example, extends this and distinguishes between global brands (Budweiser, Stella Artois and Beck’s), multi-country brands like Hoegaarden and Leffe, and local brands like Bud Light, Harbin (China), Klinskoy (Russia). Molson Coors distinguishes between ‘signature brands’ (definite ‘head office’ brands), its global portfolio, and partner brands. Meanwhile Asahi, producer and distributor, splits its brands more simply into Asahi brands and wines, and ‘other brands’.

The challenge that leaders face in this matrixed environment is far from easy. They must recognize the resulting dynamic in order both to manage it and to strategically deploy talent coming through the organization. To fail to do so can lead to distorted internal power bases, a failure to capitalize on innovation and ideas, delay and additional cost.


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