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Lion CMO reveals how established brands can stay relevant and win new consumers

As a global senior marketer, Anubha Sahasrabuddhe has worked with major consumer brands Mars, Wrigley and Coca-Cola – and now she’s preparing Lion for the future in her role as its CMO.

Lion CMO

After spending 20 years abroad building global brands, Anubha Sahasrabuddhe is back home in Australia and ready to tackle a new challenge. Tasked with reinventing Lion’s marketing as its CMO, she’s taking an innovative approach to communicating the company’s DNA in a contemporary context. Sahasrabuddhe is on a mission to ensure that one of Australia’s leading beverage companies is perceived as relevant and vibrant for future generations.

“I think relevance is the most important thing that you aspire to as a brand,” she tells The CEO Magazine. “We will both shape and be shaped by consumer sentiment, and to ignore it is kind of at your peril, so I think listening to what consumers are in step with is a really vital part of doing that.”

For Sahasrabuddhe, one of the key ways to stay relevant and create value for businesses is to identify signals that can predict future outcomes and keep their customers on board.

“We try to stay as connected as possible through both signals and long-term trend analysis, so that we’re always looking out and we’ve got a team called ‘future sites’, which is looking 10 years ahead,” she explains.

While understanding and delivering on Australian consumer needs, values and wants is at the heart of what she does, the CMO’s global experience equips her to be able to challenge and broaden perspectives. Keenly aware of the role that geography plays in executing an idea that is based on certain universal truths, she understands how important it is to offer propositions that meet people’s lifestyles and needs.

“Marketers are at the core of the engine of the business because if that isn’t working, I can assure you any business cannot work without an incredibly strong consumer growth engine.” – Anubha Sahasrabuddhe

One of the unique challenges for a company like Lion is adapting to the emerging trend of zero alcohol for gen Z.

“Thirty per cent of gen Zers are actively choosing not to drink at all. It’s not just moderation, it’s actually no,” Sahasrabuddhe points out. “That then invites those big questions of, ‘What does that mean for us in terms of future portfolio?’ I think that’s a really unique challenge within the alcohol industry when you’ve got 30 per cent of your future consumers saying they don’t want to drink.”

Where the one-size-fits-all approach may have worked for past generations, Sahasrabuddhe sees the consumer as the one who has the upper hand in the marketing equation.

However, she believes marketers are able to be a lot more purposeful and precise in how and when they engage with consumers. The richness of data available – which is what underpins this – is one of the biggest changes she’s observed over the course of her career.

“It’s no longer the days of, ‘I hope they’re watching.’ It really is that ability to personalise and make sure that you’re serving up the right message to the right person at the right time,” she says. “That has changed dramatically from when I first started and that’s fantastic because your probability of then converting that into a sale is much higher.”

Attracted to the opportunity to drive Lion’s transformation, Sahasrabuddhe sees her role as the guiding light of the organisation.

“Marketers are at the core of the engine of the business because if that isn’t working, I can assure you any business cannot work without an incredibly strong consumer growth engine. You own and understand the consumer better than anyone and that creates value,” she insists.

When asked how she deals with so-called failed initiatives that haven’t landed well with consumers, the global marketer believes that good intent and honesty are particularly necessary in a world where transparency and awareness of what you stand for are critical.

Disrupting the beer category


Within Lion’s portfolio, the 143-year-old XXXX brand quintessentially captures Queensland and its lifestyle like no other brand. Its recent Budgy Smugglers campaign aims to use the power of celebrity to evolve the brand in the way that it expresses itself and connects with its audience today.

The XXXX Budgy Smugglers are available in ‘Smugglers’ and ‘Smugglettes’, and the campaign features Courtney Act, the alter ego of Shane Jenek. It sees Courtney sporting the Smugglettes and Shane donning the Smugglers.

“What we’re trying to do is keep the DNA incredibly consistent but really surprise and make people think twice when they see how we’re expressing that, and I think Courtney Act is a great evolution of that,” Sahasrabuddhe says.

With a history of making heroes out of local icons, the company has shifted to rethinking the cultural stereotypes typically associated with beer as well as the way in which the brand serves the community. All of the royalties from the sale of the Budgy Smugglers will be donated to Surf Life Saving Queensland.

“We’re about transformation and so Budgy is a teeny appetiser of the type of impact that we want to have in the market in terms of being constructively disruptive in a way that challenges norms and conventions for the beer category.”

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