New York-based marketer Caitlin Partridge has had an accomplished career working in digital advertising and building international brands. Thriving on the fast pace of marketing, Caitlin isn't afraid of a challenge and actively pushes herself outside her comfort zone to innovate in her field.
Caitlin's early focus on digital marketing began while working at a social media agency where she had exposure to a number of different verticals such as education, travel, technology, food, and beverage. It was here at the agency that Caitlin first fell in love with working on the beer category.
This experience inspired Caitlin to take on her next challenge where she set her sights on owning the entire brand building process, requiring a transition to the client-side of marketing. As a beer lover herself, it was a no-brainer to take her talents in-house when offered a role at Anheuser-Busch InBev - the world's largest brewer!
We had a discussion with Caitlin to learn about the challenges of her role and to learn about how she is using agility and innovative ideas to overcome them and scale up global brands.
Hey Caitlin! Thanks for chatting with us today. Can you tell us about your role at AB InBev?
I've been working at AB InBev for 5 years now. Initially, I worked in innovation and then moved to portfolio strategy for a few years before starting on our 'beyond beer' business. This category is exactly as it sounds and covers everything from ready to drink to wine and spirits.
For the last two years, I've been leading the global expansion of Mike's Hard Lemonade and Seltzer as well as starting to focus on a couple of our other brands as well.
What would you say are some of the biggest challenges of your role?
There are many challenges associated with working across global markets and executing at scale. As the global director, I need to make sure that we're building a consistent brand that is also locally relevant to each of our individual markets.
Consistency is especially important with brands like Mike's that have been around for almost 30 years. We need to honour the long history of the brand, even though we are essentially starting from scratch by introducing it to global markets that aren't yet familiar with it.
Supporting the global markets to give each of them the flexibility they need takes a balance of speed and agility. We need to continually create relevant content that keeps up with the speed of social that is also sustainable for long-term brand building.
I've been working in the alcoholic seltzer category for over two years now and the market is constantly changing. We've seen it take off in the US but it's challenging to try and predict how it's going to grow in other markets around the world. The light beer category hasn't necessarily been received the same way internationally, so we're placing bets to see if seltzer will get as popular as it has in the US.
What do you love most being a marketer?
I love the dynamic nature of marketing, there's never a day that's the same! Trends are constantly changing, consumers are changing and so is the way we market to them.
Overall the speed of change in marketing just keeps getting faster and faster. One of my favourite parts of it is constantly being able to try new things, collaborate with different people and solve new problems.
The other thing that brings me joy in my role is connecting with the consumer and understanding what's relevant to them. I enjoy building things that will take off because consumers love it and it resonates with them.
Where do you find new ideas and inspiration for the industry?
Now that we are back in the office, I have a commute where I enjoy listening to podcasts. One of my favourite shows is the Ad Age Marketer's Brief podcast which are 20-minute short interviews and discussions with marketers that I've been enjoying.
I also take a lot of inspiration from watching what is working for other brands and marketers. I don't just pay attention to other beer or drinks brands, I look at all sorts of industries and brands of different verticals to see what is successful.
What do you enjoy least about being a marketer?
Budget constraints - we all wish that we had unlimited budgets! Of course, having more constraints ultimately breeds greater creativity but there are always trade-offs.
Not being able to execute all of your big ideas is probably the hardest thing about marketing. Having to make hard choices is a core part of the role and making the right ones is key to being a successful marketer.
What would you do if you had double the budget?
I'd create bigger things for Mike's brand to really take our ideas to the next level. We could amplify the message by bringing in bigger influencers and more media to make sure that more people laid eyes on what we're doing.
Even though it is part of a big organisation, Mike's is still a small brand entering new markets with a lot of budget constraints. We do have some really strong ideas that could be a lot bigger if only we had some additional resources!
What would you say is the biggest challenge your industry is facing?
Probably changing consumer preferences, both in terms of the alcohol industry and marketing overall. The COVID-19 pandemic has sped up a lot of trends that were already coming to fruition like health and wellness, direct to consumer and delivery. Now that the trends have been accelerated, all of the brands and marketers have to catch up.
What advice would you give yourself at the start of your career?
Keep staying curious, challenge yourself and never stop learning. It's important to not get too comfortable or complacent.
Early in my career, I wanted to get to a point where I felt like I had all the knowledge to be comfortable in my role but now I know that a lot of growth comes from discomfort.
What's one thing you believe that marketing that most people would disagree with?
One that I've referenced a lot over the last couple of years is the Ehrenberg-Bass and Byron Sharp 'Laws of Growth' which challenges a lot of things that marketers believe about customer behaviour and brand loyalty. One of the misconceptions people have from their principles is that customer loyalty is not important.
A key takeaway for me was the notion that you always have to be recruiting your consumers. I think there is a lot of validity in that concept and believe that you can still have a focus on loyalty while driving growth through recruitment.
What problems were you trying to solve when you started working with Creatively Squared?
Primarily we needed large quantities of high-quality content for Mike's produced quickly at a low cost. Because we were essentially a new brand starting out in all these global markets we didn't have an existing repository of content that we could leverage to get our social and digital presence off the ground. Our visual brand identity had also evolved making any pre-existing content obsolete.
The second problem was to transform our content from commercial looking visuals produced in a studio to socially native assets that would resonate more with our consumers.
We needed to produce locally relevant content for each of our markets that were consistent with the global brand look and feel. Having access to a global network of creators enabled us to produce content that my local teams felt was was more resonant with their markets.
What did you consider when you were weighing up how to produce the content you needed?
The alternatives were either my creative agencies or our in-house agency, but the reason I chose Creatively Squared was to have access to the global network of creators. We were trying to achieve a more creator-driven vision for our content, rather than working with a professional photographer in a studio.
At that stage, I had my creative agencies leading a lot of graphical work because we hadn't been able to execute a physical photo shoot. However even if we could, using a studio would have come at a much higher cost and I wouldn't have been able to produce as many assets that way.
What have you been most impressed with so far?
With the ease of working with Creatively Squared, I love the briefing and asset delivery process which has made it a very user-friendly experience for me.
I find the quality of the content improves with each subsequent project and we are building better briefs each time. We've partnered with a lot of different creators and can continue working with our favourites while still bringing in fresh ideas.
Overall the experience has been an easy and agile way to produce quality content for digital use.
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